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10 Ways to Think More Effectively

Leonie Cutts

It is the festive season. My favourite time of the year. Also a very busy, distracting time of year! I have sat down to write this blog several times and have struggled. My mind has been scrambled — full of lists, distractions, interruptions, phone calls, urgent “to do’s” and exploding with “would’s” and “should’s” and “have to’s”.

When we are in a state of stress, the quality of our thinking diminishes. Have you ever noticed that?

So, I have put off writing this blog until today. Today, I have blocked out the time and removed distractions. Today, I am calmer. I have set aside time to pause, think and share some insights about thinking that we discussed in our Unpacked Session last week with Candice Smith, Thinking Environment practitioner and Founder of The Thinking Field.

I attended Candice’s Thinking Foundation course a couple of years ago. We spent two days … well … thinking! It was also very much about listening. Listening intently to allow the other person to think clearly.

The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first

The quality of our thinking depends on the way we treat each other while we are thinking

Nancy Kline

In a world that seems intent on throwing shiny things and loud distractions in our path, it is critical that we pay attention to how we think, and how we impact others’ thinking.

How often do you interrupt someone when they are talking — because time is short and you need to say your piece? Or how often are you interrupted? Interruptions are interpreted by our brain as a threat, and impact the quality of our thinking.

Removing interruptions is just one key to thinking better. Nancy Kline, founder of The Thinking Environment, recognised that people do their best thinking when the people around them behave in specific ways. She, along with her colleagues, composed the 10 components critical to creating a thinking environment, here’s 5 of them:

  • Attention: Being listened to, with respect and without interruption, enables us to thrive in our thinking. Sounds easy enough, but do we do it? Observe your conversations and notice how people treat each other. Do you talk over each other? Interrupt? Judge? Criticise? Or are you supportive and being supported to think well? The power of silence really is golden when listening to someone and allowing them to think well.
  • Equality: Knowing that you will get a chance to speak and be listened to, allows you also, to listen attentively to others. At meetings, or in conversations in general, do you find yourself waiting for a minute to jump in and have your turn, or do you see and feel the equality, knowing that everyone will have their turn?
  • Ease: “I’ve got time”. Three simple words that can turn a hurried exchange into a meaningful thinking and sharing moment. Sometimes that time is only a few minutes, but if you are able to pause, be fully present and share your thoughts, it can dramatically change the quality of the thinking and interaction.
  • Appreciation: When your brain is in the positive, you are able to think more clearly — and, research shows us — that we also think more creatively. Put simply, appreciation supports better thinking.
  • Encouragement: Listen with an open mind, without judgement and notice the quality of thinking you enable in others. When we listen to judge or criticise or compete, we diminish the quality of thinking.

See all 10 components of the Thinking Environment here.

There is a synergy between using the CCS Cards and creating a thinking environment. In many ways, simply using the cards, naturally creates some of the key components of the thinking environment.

As everyone is invited to respond to a topic using their cards, there is an understanding that each person will have a turn to speak and share. The cards naturally invite a state of curiosity — which can heighten attention during the sharing.

There is a sense of ease and equality: Everyone has the same set of cards — the same set of thinking tools — a kind of common language. Time to reflect, make and refine choices and take equal turns sharing is a natural and automatic part of using CCS Cards. Equal voice is part of the structure.

So, being mindful of the components of the Thinking Environment as you use CCS Cards in your facilitation or coaching, will enhance the quality of the responses.

And don’t forget to take some distraction-free time for yourself to think, by using the CCS Cards as a tool for self-reflection. In this way you can create your own thinking environment — giving yourself time to pause and reflect and think.

After the year we have had, I think we could all benefit from some deep reflection time. What do you think?


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There are some conversations that can brighten the room more than the festive fairy lights. Come and engage in this vibrant, festive session with André Alphonso — the master of the great questions! Join us for our last Unpacked Session for the year, Christmas Conversations.

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Leonie Cutts

Co-founder of CCS Corporation, co-developer of the CCS, facilitator and coach. Leonie is passionate about bringing people together for connection and growth in both their personal and professional lives.