Feb 15, 2022
Introduction: Ruth McCarthy is an extreme
listener and thought provoker. She is faculty at Time to Think, is
a Time to Think Coach & Facilitator. Ruth’s business is called
Think it Through and she operates from London. Formerly a Student
from Trinity College Dublin where she studied Modern Languages. She
has a Master’s degree in Critical Thinking and Cultural Studies
from Birkbeck, University London and of course several Licenses and
Certificates from Time to Think LTD.
Podcast Episode Summary
This episode explores the conditions necessary for generative
thinking. 10 principles housed in the Thinking Environment are
brought to life across this episode. Ruth shares the material
developed by Nancy Kline, work introduced to the world by her
books, Time to Think in 1999, More Time to think in 2009 and just
lately the book, The Promise that changes everything as well as the
many course offerings and bespoke trainings provided by the company
Time To Think LTD where Ruth is a Global Faculty Member.
Points made over the episode
- Ruth shared how she believes she has lived her life backwards.
Somehow in her late 50’s Ruth discovered the work of Nancy Kline
and was struck by the provocative nature of what she was
discovering about how we as humans think
- She essentially created a career at a later stage in life on
material new to her.
- Earlier Ruth had a career in book publishing.
- Ruth shares the conditions that create a thinking
- Place- Producing a physical environment-the
room, the listener, your body, that says you matter
- Attention-Listening without interruption and
with interest in where the person will go next in their
- Equality-Regarding each other as thinking
peers; giving each and equal time to think
- Ease-Noticing and discarding internal
- Appreciation-Noticing what is good and saying
- Encouragement-Giving courage to go to the
unexplored edge of our thinking by ceasing competition as
- Feelings-Welcoming the release of
- Incisive Questions-Freeing the human mind of
an untrue assumption lived as true
- Information-Absorbing the facts, data, denial,
- Difference-Championing our inherent diversity
of identity and thought
- The thinking environment is a beautiful paradox. Its seeming
simplicity is the other side of complexity
- It is as simple as saying I will listen to you and I promise
not to interrupt you.
- I promise to be fascinated by the fact you are thinking rather
than focusing on your content and employing my meaning making. It
is a promise that says I will not derail your thinking by providing
you with exquisite attention
- In the presence of this benign generative force (you the
listener) the brain of the other can wire and fire
- The conditions that support a generative thinking environment
are available and yet often unpractised. In fact the presence of a
thinking environment is often exceptional
- To experience the ease that says I will not interrupt you calms
your internal system and allows you to think freely. Encouraging
the thinker, made implicit by attention, allows the thinker to go
far and wide with their thinking.
- Encouragement means shutting down competition between members
of the team
- It says you are in a place that matters.
- Appreciation is a great unsung hero. We are often taught to be
cynical of appreciation and yet it is a hard psychological reality
that if we are told what is good about us it creates the neuro
chemistry for good thinking
- Information and disinformation. We are in an age of
mis-information. To think well we need to be presented with the
facts, to be able to absorb the data, which is why rounds on teams
gives the team an opportunity to hear all the available data
- Hierarchy and inequality can be a tipping point for teams. Ruth
often asks how it would be for a team if it shared the time
- Resistance often comes in the form of assumptions. It is the
work of a Time to Think facilitator to surface
- Urgency destroys good thinking. Ruth often acts as an agent for
ease knowing that in the presence of ease thinking is allowed. We
are habituated to compete, to collapse into urgency and reactive
ways of being. Interruption and competition are time
- Funny that we will pay a professional to show us how to play a
sport better and we know we will have to go through the process of
feeling uncomfortable holding a new grip for example. The same is
true in learning new on Teams.
- Trust is an outcome. We need a consistent and recognised way of
being with each other to engender Trust. Ruth shares an example of
using the 10 components to begin to manifest trust
- Paucity of appreciation on teams. The world is rife with
ridicule and stuff that we call banter that only supports to
contract another. It is important to notice what is good in another
and to say it. Appreciation works. There is enough research and
evidence to support its efficacy. Consider the Gottman Institute
and Heart-math from California.
- In order to hear what is difficult the brain needs to hear
first what is good. There is a precise proportionality for that and
it is 5:1.
- What works best is to hear a quality, one or two words
reflected back to another that ring true. It needs to be a quality
rather than a product. This distinction is profound
- The Brain is programmed to avoid pain and it will avoid.
Emotions like fear, anger, disgust, shame help us to move away.
Emotions like joy, love and Trust, emotions that give meaning to
life support us to move towards.
- You have got to give people the confidence to do their own
thinking to get great results.
- Nancy Kline is a brilliant and humble leader who models the
idea that we can never be sure of being right. Being anti-fragile
has got to be a top skill for Leaders today
- Consider 2 minutes of uninterrupted thinking and how far the
brain can go in that time. The average standard is 9 seconds before
we are interrupted. Interruption is akin to an attack, a violent
act. Unless we have a contract for difference we will no doubt
perpetuate a vicious cycle which only means a re-hashing of old
- It is worth noting it is kind to practice a Time to Think
environment but it is comforting to know that it is also a rigorous
- Ruth explores a case where a client of hers employed a Thinking
Environment and continues to employ the practices today. She shares
how the brain behaves differently in the presence of a question as
opposed to a topic.
- Nancy Kline’s new book, The Promise that Changes Everything
discusses in even more detail the 10 conditions and includes topics
like polarisation, denial, digitisation and
- Curiously now that we have moved to a blended form of work
where much is conducted online, Ruth believes that two dimensional
way of communicating is enhanced by employing the principles of a
- Nancy Kline: The Promise That Changes
Everything: I won’t interrupt you
- Nancy Kline: More Time to Think: The power
of independent thinking
- Nancy Kline: Time to Think: Listening to
Ignite the Human Mind