More Time to Think
August 1, 2020

You need more time to think, how this book can unleash it

By Paul Laughlin

Having read the prequel over twenty years ago, I was fascinated to find what I’d learn from “More time to think” by Nancy Kline. This book was written over a decade ago now, so I’ve been procrastinating, wondering what else there was to learn about this approach. How wrong I was.

This is such a powerful book. One that could be potentially transformative, both for leaders and everyone else. In fact, I prefer this sequel to the original as Nancy is able to share so much that has been learnt in practice.

Nancy Kline has dedicated her life to the cause of helping others think better. As an author, speaker, coach, mentor, trainer & consultant, this clarity of purpose has served her well. I rarely meet another coach who has not been inspired by her writing or classes.

The book includes all the theory you need to understand this approach to better thinking. But the majority of this book is very practical. Giving advice for a wide range of situations and packed with case studies & people’s stories.

More time to think comes from a Thinking Environment

To benefit from more time to think, this book advocates the Thinking Environment as the model to get there. It is a set of 10 principles or components as Nancy calls them, that are needed for us to think well.

Those 10 components are:

  1. Attention (don’t interrupt, really listen & be interested)
  2. Equality (treat as an equal & equal time/turns to all)
  3. Ease (unhurried freedom & learn to do by ‘just’ listening)
  4. Appreciation (practice a ratio of 5:1 of praise:critique)
  5. Encouragement (encourage the courage to think beyond limits)
  6. Information (share facts, dismantle denial, face truths)
  7. Feelings (allow for emotional release, crying makes you smarter)
  8. Diversity (encourage cognitive diversity, have diverse groups)
  9. Incisive Questions (remove untrue ‘limiting assumption’ blockers)
  10. Place (create an environment that says “you matter” to people)

They sound so simple & yet can take a lifetime to master. Looking back I’m disappointed with the progress I’ve made on the above since reading “Time to Think“. But I’m also reenthused to go for it again. So many examples in this book demonstrate the power unleashed by the above thinking context.

Before I go further in this book review, I should mention Nancy’s writing style. It is beautiful and heartwarming. She writes with such obvious passion, good humour & warmth – it’s infectious. She also knows how to tell a good human story & craft a beautiful phrase in the poetry of her prose.

Putting the Thinking Environment into practice

As I mentioned earlier, this book benefits from lessons learnt in many years of practical application. When Nancy first wrote “Time to Think” it was on the back of 15 years thinking & working on applying her Thinking Environment principles. Extending individual coaching techniques to groups and numerous different contexts.

Since the huge success of her first book. She had another decade of practical experience to draw upon for this book. That has really helped her both identify the challenges and share what has worked to overcome them.

In part two of this book she focusses on how you can apply her model to better thinking in pairs. She starts by establishing the mindset you need to approach this (what she describes as the Positive Psychological Choice – something I have seen help in my mentoring work too). Then goes on to explain in detail how to conduct ‘Part 1‘ of such work together.

This revises much of what was in her first book, but with greater emphasis on lessons learnt from practice. It is exciting to see again the huge power of ‘just‘ listening’. Actively giving someone the power to choose what they want to think about & not direction/rescuing them during that journey. Such simple questions can help them discover they are more resourceful than they knew.

Part two of Pairs work hugely expands application

I shared in my previous, brief, book review of “Time to Think” how powerful an incisive question can be for part one (above). What really extends the usefulness of this book is how Nancy expands that by explaining a part two approach to thinking as a pair.

In this section, she explores, explains & demonstrates how to respond to a range of different goals your partner may have. After the free format of “What do you want to think about?” in part 1, many people will have greater clarity on a thinking goal. However, the diversity of what people want to think through made it often challenging to know how to respond.

In this (so useful) section, Nancy identifies & advises on approach for the following possible thinking (c.f. mentoring/coaching) goals:

  • Action
  • Feeling
  • Removing-The-Blocks
  • Understanding-Why_I…
  • Looking-At-Assumptions
  • Exploring-New-Topic
  • Activity
  • Information

For each of those she shares case studies & honest stories about what has not worked & how incisive questions/approaches for each were discovered.

She goes on to provide some practical & inspirational advice for coaching, mentoring & having better dialogue using these components. This book really should be required reading on coaching training courses. It would help focus coaches on the presence they need, rather than more models.

You can create More time to Think in Groups too

As I’ve often mentioned on this blog & social media, meetings are the bane of many a leader’s life. So it is timely that in part two of this ‘in practice‘ section of the book, Nancy shares how to apply this approach in groups.

This part is full of case studies & honest exploration of frustrations and barriers in organisations & teams. Much felt very familiar to me from corporate life.

She demonstrates how versions of the approach taken in pairs for different goals can also help groups. Very often this enables an organisation to benefit from truly hearing the silent but frustrated person on the team. A person who more often than not has the wisdom to share that is needed.

I recommend this section to facilitators, consultants and experts of all kinds. With regards to the latter, Nancy shares and amusing but helpful aide memoire for experts to pin up to remind them to listen more.

A recent practical experience of this was when I participated in William Buist’s great “Build a Better Business Bookclub“. Having been inspired by this book (as the one we each read last month). William led the book club as a Thinking Environment. We each had uninterrupted time to share what we thought and be prompted to share more. It was the most enjoyable and intellectually rich book club experience that I’ve had.

Finally, lift your heart to believe & work for human progress

True to the warmth & compassion of her voice (in prose), Nancy closes this book with a vision of work in progress around the world. From those pioneering work on climate control to sustainable businesses, we see how this better quality of thinking happens.

Nancy generously shares from many working in different settings. From South Africa to the USA. Europe to the UK. It must be such an encouragement to her to see her living legacy already. The goal she shared with her grandmother is coming true before her eyes. May we see a pandemic of this kind of thinking before too long.

How will you “throw your soul at their feet” & help others too?

I’ve shared before on this blog how unappreciated I believe that poetry is for leadership development. In a past book review, I shared how much I had gained through the writings of the poet David Whyte.

Given that & the poetic lilt of Nancy’s prose at many times in this book, it is fitting that she closes with a poem. One I share in full below. It is a poem from Davison Budhoo. It feels especially poignant for those of in the second or third phase of our lives. I hope it inspires you to think more freely & free others to do the same through applying More Time to Think.

At some stage, said the Northern Star,

You must stop the pre-arranged reel,

However interesting it may be,

However titillating to the Gods.

Stop it and take potluck.

Face your audience head-on, without props,

Without supporting cast, without rehearsal,

Throw your soul at their feet, and make them,

Either to trample on it,

Or to embrace it into themselves.

In the waxing and waning of your tide

There is a knowledge awaiting discovery –

A knowledge never learnt,

Nor sought before,

Because it is too disturbing for

Humankind. If you can find that knowledge, use it wisely

To make your world compassionate.

Use it tonight, unapologetically,

Before your time runs out.”

Davison Budhoo