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November 11, 2019

5 people in business attire, standing in a circle, looking down into the center of the circle. The camera is on the ground, looking up at their smiling faces.


“No one of us is as smart as all of us thinking together.”
~ Admiral James Stavridis’s TED talk
Taking Time to Think Together
How many times in the past month have you heard someone say, “I don’t have time to think”? How many times has that person been YOU?

Beyond having no time to think on our own, it is the rare team that takes time to mindfully think together - to share anything beyond surface thoughts, gossip, or complaining.

Imagine what might be possible if we routinely took time to ask each other, “What is standing out for you? What are you learning? What are you feeling about that?”

This week’s “try this” exercise is therefore a simple practice that can be infused into any gathering – personal or professional – to connect you more deeply to your own thoughts and the thoughts of those around you.

Try This:
Five minutes before the end of a meeting, ask your team members to briefly look through any notes they took during the meeting, to think about what is standing out to them from the meeting.

Then take just 5 minutes to share the following:

  • As you look through any notes you took during this meeting, circle what stood out to you. Share one of those thoughts.
  • What are you taking out of this meeting, into the rest of the day?
  • What words would you use to summarize the group’s discussion? (And what are you feeling about that discussion?)
  • What did you learn that you didn’t already know?
  • Were all your questions addressed? What are you feeling about the answers to those questions?
  • What was the best part of this meeting?
  • What would have made this meeting more effective for you?

You’ll notice that some of these are more about feelings than others. In some workplaces, those feelings questions can work well. In others, they are 100% NOT acceptable. The key is to find the reflection questions that will work in your environment.

The power of reflecting together cannot be overstated.

Group reflection helps team members to grow together, to know each other better. Reflection helps us understand why (for example), Joe may have had a frown on his face the whole time, or why Mary suddenly got excited.

Reflection also helps us learn from each other. “Wow, I had never put all that together. What you just shared has me seeing things through a very different lens.”

These questions also put forward the real things that, left unsaid, lead to gossip and griping and parking lot conversations. By saying out loud, “I thought we were going to discuss X!” the team can make plans to perhaps discuss X next time – or to at least talk about why X will not be a future topic.

Importantly, that 5 minutes of group reflection may be the only time during the day that you are speaking as PEOPLE vs. your position in the organization. By taking time at every meeting to communicate honestly about the things that matter to the people in the room, you will be creating a simple system to further humanize your work environment – a key for creating more effective results.

That is why reflection is one of the key aspects of the Catalytic Thinking framework, creating systems that naturally bring out the best in each of us.

Resources to Support Your Practice
These resources will help you build and strengthen your reflection practice:

  • WATCH:
    All our meetings at Creating the Future end with reflection. Click through and fast-forward the videos at this link, to see that practice in action.
  • LISTEN:  
    In this podcast conversation
    , Sterling Speirn (former CEO of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation) talks about taking time, building trust, and getting to know people simply as people. 
  • READ:
    For more practices that will help your team members know each other, click here

Want to learn alongside other people who are also trying out Catalytic Thinking practices? Join our Catalytic Thinking in Action community on Facebook - a welcoming place where you can ask questions and learn from people like you who are experimenting with these practices. We look forward to seeing you there!

Help Keep Our Programs Freely Available
Most of the programs at Creating the Future are free or low cost, with liberal tuition assistance when they aren’t.

If you find our programs of benefit, we hope you will consider contributing, to help keep these programs available to as many people as possible.   Donate here ...

eJournal Archives:
If you’re new to our eJournal, or just want to remind yourself of past practice exercises we’ve shared, check out our eJournal archives here.

Creating the Future
is a collection of people around the world supporting each other in a grand experiment:
To determine how much more humane the world could be
if the systems that guide our work and our lives 
were rooted in questions that bring out the best in each of us.

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