Saturday 19 October 2019

Thinking, Fast and Slow

I have just finished reading Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow. It is a fascinating, and very salutary, read. Like most people, I like to think that I am quite a rational person, at least when thinking seriously about serious issues.  Like most people, I am probably wrong, at least some of the time.  Kahneman details the many ways in which we take short cuts in our thinking. For example, we frequently substitute an easier question to think about than the one that we are facing, and answer that, without realising that we have done so.  His many years of research and engagement with others in the field provides him with a rich store of examples, anecdotes, and serious research findings.

There is much to ponder on here; not least the importance Kahneman recognises in the stories we tell ourselves, which of course resonates with my Shifting Stories work (and I will almost certainly post some reflections to the Shifting Stories blog in due course) . But the first thing I am considering is the challenge this seems to pose to Nancy Kline's hypothesis that sits under her Thinking Environment. Regular readers of this blog, if such there be, and those who work with me in real life, will know that I am a big fan and keen exponent of Kline's work (see various posts about it here).

Me with Nancy Kline on the occasion of my
qualifying as a Time To Think coach
The hypothesis in question, is that when people do their own independent thinking, they are most likely to come up with the best solutions to the problems that they are seeking to address.  Thus the purpose of the Thinking Environment is to help people to do such independent thinking.

But if Kahneman is correct, there is no guarantee that people's thinking processes are sound; nor that they will be able to identify the errors in it, even when asked (pace Kline) what they are assuming.

So where does that leave Kline's model - and my use of it as a coach and facilitator?  Is it delusional, and should I desist?  I think not (but, of course, I am aware that my thinking may be poor here, not least because of another risk Kahneman identifies: theory-induced blindness...).  However, I think that Kline's inclusion of Information as one of the 10 components of the Thinking Environment gives me (and the model) a let-out - and some additional responsibilities.

Nancy Kline has always been clear that if you are listening to someone planning to spend their £400k budget, and you know that the budget is, in fact, £40k, it is an act of intellectual vandalism to allow them to spend an hour telling you their plans without sharing your information.  She is quite careful to emphasise that it should be information, not your opinion etc, so as to stay with the other person's independent thinking and not derail it with your ideas.

However, I think I have always tended to treat that component, information, with too much caution; and that as well as factual data like that, there may be other information that I am aware of that would be helpful, or even essential, for the thinker to know.  And Kahneman's insights fit into that category I think.  Which means that I have an additional responsibility really to learn about the various ways in which people can shortcut good thinking, and how to spot them, so that I am in a position to share that information, when both necessary and appropriate, with my clients.

And given the richness and complexity of Kahneman's work, that is no light undertaking...

Thursday 10 October 2019

Supervision Rooms

I blogged last week, enthusiastically, about Reflective Practice in Supervision, by Hewson and Caroll.  I have been continuing to reflect on it, and how its simple (but not simplistic) structures and models shed light and clarify thinking. 

For example, they use the metaphor of different rooms to illustrate the different spaces that the supervisor and practitioner may need to occupy during a supervisory meeting. The rooms (and their purposes) are: the Office (a directive space, for safeguarding and ensuring compliance with requirements); the Exam Room (an evaluative space, for evaluating the practitioner’s current competence); the Lecture Theatre (a passive space, for imparting information or advice); the Sitting Room (a restorative space, for debriefing and processing of emotions); the Studio (an active space for generating collaborative thinking and action plans) and the Observatory (a reflective space, for exploration, discovery and insight).

I realise that not everybody has an Observatory (let alone a Lecture Theatre) in their house - I am peculiarly fortunate in that respect - but nonetheless, the metaphor is helpful.

Commendably, Hewson and Carroll highlight that their work is primarily about Reflection, so focuses largely on what goes on in the Observatory - but they make it clear that all the other rooms may be important to visit.  They also stress that it is very important (and this is where the metaphor of the rooms becomes particularly helpful) for the supervisor and practitioner both to know and agree which room they are in at any moment in time. Indeed, a colleague who supervised me recently said, after reading this, that it made it clear to him precisely why one part of the session had felt differently to each of us: he had thought we had moved into the Studio, while I was still in the Observatory.

And that observation set me thinking, too, about where different coaching approaches are likely to sit most frequently.  So I see Kline’s Thinking Environment approach as spending most time in the Observatory, for example, with occasional forays into the Lecture Theatre (information) the Sitting Room (feelings) and the Studio.  Whereas a Solutions Focused approach might be expected to spend a larger proportion of time in the Studio, focusing on solutions.

And then, of course (for my mind is essentially frivolous) I move on to think about a special edition Cluedo: it was the Supervisor, in the Observatory, with the Mirror...

Thursday 3 October 2019

Thank Heavens: A Good Text!...

You know that feeling - you're slogging through worthy and thoughtful, and probably valuable, texts on whatever it is you are studying, and suddenly you stumble across one that is written to be read, thought-provoking, exciting even - and thoroughly re-energising.  Thus me, studying for my Coaching Supervision Qualification.  Yes, yes, Hawkins and Shohet is essential reading, and their 7-eyed model is not without merit; and de Haan can't be ignored, and has some real insights; and then there's some good essays in some of the collections (The Heart of Coaching Supervision and Full Spectrum Supervision)... But to be honest it can all get a bit wearisome.  And then someone (whom I can't remember, or I would call down blessings on her (or conceivably his) head) suggested Hewson and Carroll's Reflective Practice in Supervision. So I dutifully bought it, it arrived, and the clouds parted, the sun came out, and birds began to sing.

It's not just that it's well written - though it undoubtedly is.  The authors have thought carefully about what will be useful to busy practitioners and have structured and signposted the book well. And it's not just that the content is good - though again it undoubtedly is: it gives the clearest idea of what is distinctive about supervision that I have read; and has a number of simple but profound frameworks that one can instantly recognise as useful, but also as worthy of further reading and thought.  But also, it builds on, refers to, and expands many of my particular areas of interest.  Michael White of Narrative Therapy fame, is an acknowledged reference point, as is Nancy Kline, of the Thinking Environment, for example.

So do I really like it because it speaks to my prejudices?  I think not, for I disagree with it (and with White and Kline) in various important ways.  In fact, interestingly, it offers a particular approach (the Consolidation Stance) that fills what seems to me to be the biggest gap in Kline's model. Nancy seems to assume that once one has had the right thought(s) then right action will follow as day follows night.  Not so Hewson and Carroll. They recognise that more is needed (as indeed does Scott, in his ground-breaking Shifting Stories, where the last part of the model, Enriching the Plot, addresses precisely that issue... but I digress...)

So if you happen to be studying to be a Coaching Supervisor, this is highly recommended.  Or if you are a coach, I think there is a lot to learn from this.  But above all, if you are thinking of writing a book for practitioners, have a look at this as a model - and compare it with other, worthy but weighty texts: you will learn a lot.