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Time to Think

On the first year of my degree course I was shocked by the lecturers’ attitudes towards essay writing, you were not expected to come up with any original ideas – an original thought was seen as a rather negative thing!

Everything we wrote had to be backed up by research.  I thought to myself, how is anyone going to have any original ideas if they constantly have to be in the context of research that has already been done?  To this day I still believe that a lot of education has the effect of reducing original ideas to essays of regurgitated old research.

This book “Time to Think” challenges that whole climate.  It introduces the concept of the “Thinking Environment”.  Which is an environment where we are encouraged to think freely.

The ideas in this book are based on the assumption that the quality of everything we do depends on the thinking we do first, and our thinking depends on the quality of the attention we give each other.

It describes a “Thinking Environment” which is 10 components that can be applied in any setting to enable others to think for themselves.  One of the main ideas is that “The brain that contains the problem probably also contains the solution”.

One of the main things that I like about this book is the way in which it is based on equality and respect for all people.  The idea that, given the right environment, we are all capable of coming up with genuinely new and interesting ideas.   The author talks about negative assumptions being the main things that cause blocks and stops free thinking from taking place.  She demonstrates ways to ask incisive questions to shatter the assumptions and free us to think again.

Here are some extracts from the book on various topics, from the concept of competition to the ability to listen.  You might, like me, find some of the concepts quite refreshing!

A fascinating section challenges the foundations of competition: “..to compete does not ensure excellence.  It just ensures comparitive success.”

“Focus on a good idea rather than winning”

“The minute you begin listening to someone, your assumption about their ability to think for themselves will affect how well you pay attention and how confident you are in the likelihood that they will think perhaps even better than you can about their issue.   If you think their brain is inferior to yours, they will know it even if you do a dance a minute trying to hide it. ”

“Equality helps the loud people from silencing the quiet ones.   But it also requires the quiet ones to contribute.   In a thinking environment no-one can abdicate responsibility for thinking. ”

For me the main benefit of this book wasn’t so much in the practical application of the techniques, but more in the enthusiasm for free thinking that it fired up in me.  As you can see from my description of my college years, I think creating that enthusiasm is something that is far too rare in our culture today, but if we don’t start to incorporate it into education and business we may have to put up with regurgitated ideas from our greatest resource, ourselves!

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