time to think
July 8, 2014

Book Review: Time to Think by Nancy Kline

By Paul Laughlin

Do you have time to think in your leadership role?

I first read this book over a decade ago, but it made such an impact that I have kept coming back to it over the years.

It is not specifically about customer insight, although it’s implications for how to create a ‘thinking environment‘ should be of interest to researchers and those designing customer experiences. However, for me the biggest lessons from this book are for leaders (including customer insight leaders).

As you read through the initial chapters on the ten components of a thinking environment, it’s easy to be struck with how different these are to the typical corporate working environment. Giving colleagues time to think for themselves, use of appropriate incisive questioning to help them problem solve and giving regular appreciation can all feel very alien from being ‘part of the machine’.

I particularly like the idea of having rooms for thinking or reading in peace – with the challenge of even being able to book meeting rooms in today’s busy noisy open plan offices that still sounds radical. But it could help you get the most out of your more reflective team members.

Although ideas can be sparked along the way throughout this book, for me the real payback comes in Part Two.

Here Nancy includes practical chapters on ‘meeting this way‘, ‘presenting this way‘ and ‘leading the way‘. One area I found particularly useful was the ‘supervising this way’ which was a helpful alternative to formulaic performance management meetings and enabled me to instead create reviews which really helped those working for me think how they could best develop. I’ll be coming back to the chapter on ‘executive coaching‘ anew, as I’ve now started my post-grad course on this and will be practising all this year.

One note of caution, this book does clearly come from American culture and some translation is needed. I well remember many years ago trying to implement some of the ‘meeting this way’ ideas, exactly as recommended, with my team (of 20-25 analysts at the time). The sense of cringing embarrassment as people were expected to say what they appreciated about the person next to them or to start the meeting with a ‘positive round‘ with their good news for that week – well it did make your toes curl.

But, I gradually found out that the principles still worked even if they needed to be implemented differently for British culture.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to leaders and would be interested to hear from any others who’ve read it or put it into practice.

Time to Think