In Peter Senge’s ‘The Dawn of Systems Leadership’ he talks about collective leadership and how a systems leader develops the ability and environment that fosters reflection and more generative conversations. Wow! That’s precisely what happens when you introduce a Thinking Environment.
In the many examples he gives of systems leadership he notes a common theme about ‘creating the space’ to enable collaboration and thinking. It enables the planning to begin. Again, that’s the Thinking Environment writ large.
He notes the people needs tools to help people see the “larger systems obscured by established mental models, how to foster different conversations that gradually build genuine engagement and trust, and how to sense emerging possibilities and help shift the collective focus from just reacting to problems to releasing collective creativity.”
And, “The tools that matter have two functions: they produce practical benefits and they affect how people think and see the world.”
Now there’s plenty of system leadership tools around some designed by academics, others by business leaders and each have their place. We are, after all, a diverse community and respond individually to fit our personalities and the needs. Indeed, I’ve used a few of them and include them in the training I’ve designed for the NHS. Wouldn’t it be great though if we had a ‘tool’ that could be used across all systems and is itself a systems leader?
Isn’t that what the Thinking Environment and Time to Think is all about?
It recognises that in order for humans to operate within a complex world we need to be able to think with clarity and depth. And that because of how our internal systems are hard-wired, certain activities and behaviours inhibits our thinking whilst others stimulate and encourage true, independent, generative thinking. The research by Nancy Kline has identified the components that allows this generative thinking to occur. Showing equality by paying attention, not interrupting, encouraging thinking, celebrating the diversity within us, asking the right questions, showing that we all matter – these are the true attributes of a systems leader – and the Thinking Environment.
When AI moulds our world, Time to Think brings back the humanity within us. When pandemics threaten our world and we need a quick response, Time to Think allows us to quickly discover new and innovative ways of working. When our worlds are overwhelmed by workload stress and anxieties about the numerous threats around us, Time to Think brings clarity and focus.
Yes we all now live in a complex, inter-related world where systems link into other systems into other systems. Time to Think allows us to find a path through all of that, to discover linkages that can enhance our relationships with others and reveal new approaches that allow us all to flourish. Isn’t that what systems leadership is all about?
Laura Murphy blogs about things that interest her. They might not interest you but read them anyway. It might even change your mind.