Some years ago my consultant role in a startup finished, my working life changed and I knew I wanted to take new coaching training. When the same name came up several times in different contexts I finally looked up Nancy Kline online and found myself on the Time to Think website. The tone and the level of what I read there really struck home.
A month later I started on the 3-DayThinking Partnership Course. On day one I volunteered to be the Thinker during our first demo session – with Nancy Kline as my Thinking Partner. It was quite a revelation. I found myself thinking freely, without interruption, advice or comment, about what mattered most to me – which was the pressing matter of what direction my career was now going to take.
And once I’d got to the point of identifying what it was I really wanted to achieve right there in the session, the series of clean, non-directive questions helped me to articulate the assumptions that were holding me back, and then to find the chief assumption. Interrogating that aloud showed me it was untrue. Which hadn’t stopped it from being very powerful.
Invited to do so I went on to identify something that was true for me, and very liberating. Nancy put that into a really searching question. All of it being in my own words, and every word meaning something very significant to me, that question unleashed a real energy and commitment which I can tap into to this day.
That’s the beauty of it, this way of thinking and working together. It’s real and fully in the moment, both forensic and authentic. It takes your thinking to places you’ve never imagined because it’s all about you – and it can also help with the more mundane, as I discovered soon afterwards.
After this first day of intensive learning and thinking I took off over the fields and uphill for a nice long walk (in Oxfordshire). Beautiful scenery and woodland, a farm gate, a broad path uphill. I decided I would walk the length of this path through the woods and meet up with the main road that surely must intersect – then turn left and walk back into picturesque Dorchester. So off I set. Dappled light through the leaves, the occasional glimpse of river and cows, the perfect English evening. Except that it was starting to get twilight-ish, and there was no sign of the main road. But I was determined to carry on on the road I’d chosen.
And then I stopped. ‘What am I assuming that makes me think this will work?’ I asked myself aloud. And I listed the assumptions. That because I’d come this far it had to work. That because the road looked like it went the right way, it must go the right way. Above all, because I wanted it to work. Fabulous. Then I asked myself if any of this was true, and what were my reasons for thinking so.
Moments later I turned around and headed back the way I’d come. Twenty minutes later I emerged onto the familiar hillside and twenty minutes after that I was back at base in the hotel. I looked at the local map on the wall in Reception. I could see the woodland, the hill, the path. And I could see that if I had followed it I would never have reached the main road – it simply didn’t cross it. I’d have walked for miles – in the dark. In fact I would have been thoroughly lost.
What a very immediate lesson that was about the power of assumptions.
And what a good question to ask in any situation of significance:
We all need to be able to work out our own solutions honestly and autonomously. The Thinking Environment process provides us with everything that we need to do that. It is practical and immediate, yet the impact is longlasting – often transformational. That’s why I choose to work this way.
Like most of us I like creating my own route.
As Einstein said, ‘We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.
This is the best route I’ve found to the finest new thinking.