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Transforming Meeting

Nancy Kline author of the book Time to Think and teaches groups how to use the meeting structure of a Thinking Environment to engage each person’s mind fully; to produce respectful; robust discussion; to make compelling presentations and to make decisions of exceptional quality.


Input of Theory – Transforming Meeting

The Thinking Environment recognises explicitly that the quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first. That the key factor in the quality of a person’s thinking is the way they are being treated by the people who are with them while they are thinking. In order for people to think really well for themselves the people around them need to behave in certain ways, and the Thinking Environment has identified and articulated those ways.

Principles and Behaviours of a Thinking Environment Meeting

  • Everyone matters Give everyone a turn to speak. Go around the group systematically at the beginning of the meeting, on each agenda item, several times and at the end of the meeting.
  • An accurate view of reality includes what is going well Begin and end the meeting with a positive assessment of the group’s work.
  • Knowing you won’t be interrupted allows you to truly think for yourself Allow each person to finish their thought uninterrupted, even in fierce debate.
  • Exploring one’s own ideas in depth can liberate the thinking of the group Give people time to think for themselves in Thinking Pairs of short, equal, uninterrupted turns.
  • Unexamined assumptions can limit thinking Occasionally ask: “What might we be assuming that could be limiting our thinking on this issue?” and “If we were to assume something more liberating and credible, what new ideas would occur to us?”

Activity – Thinking Environment Meeting

Set the chairs up in a circle so there is not ‘head’

Chairman – I’d like to start by hearing from everyone about what’s been going well for you since we last met. Who’ll start – and we’ll go to the left from there?’

Opening Round – each participant joins the meeting as they speak – because we don’t arrive properly in a meeting until we speak, don’t interrupt each other, and we agree to that before we start. Our Attention is respectful. We don’t judge what is said, or laugh at it, or discuss it. When the Round is completed and everyone including the Chairman has spoken he/she will then present the first Agenda topic clearly.

Everything on the Agenda is in the form of a question. The Chairman introduces the first item on the Agenda for example: ‘What are the obstacles that exist today and what would make the our organisation more effective?’ and asks for someone to start the Round. He reminds everyone not to interrupt the speakers and reminds the speakers to be succinct. He promises to have discussion afterwards.

Round 1 – Without any comment from him or anyone else we listen to the first speaker until finished, move to the person on the right (or left) and proceed in turn around the group as before. Each person offers their ideas on the question. If one of the participants interrupts the speaker the Chairman must suggest they waits until their turn.

Round 2 – Agreement on key points becomes evident. The Chairman draws the group together round the table, and asks for a Round to summarise what has been discussed. Then he/she summarises clearly what has been decided and checks that that’s correct.

Move on to the next item. For example “What would make life in our organisation better” Start a Round, summarise, decide. Sometimes people won’t want to speak – that’s fine too. The point is that they have the chance to do it. At the end of each agenda question the Chairman will summarise the decisions that have been made.

Final Round – the Chairman asks each person to comment succinctly on what they feel has been achieved, and on what has gone well