Monday, 26 March 2018

Prof Stephen Hawkins: the ultimate thought

I’ve just spent two days completely immersed in Nancy Klein’s Thinking Environment as part of developing my own coaching/facilitation skills.  We are encouraged to BE the Thinking Environment and in the middle of it all, it came to mind that perhaps the late Prof Hawkins was THE ultimate Thinking Environment.

I didn’t know the man, I haven’t heard his lectures and, I’ll admit, I haven’t bought or read any of his books.  I’m sure, like us all, he had his good and bad points but it seems from the eulogies I’ve read that he was always supportive of other people’s thinking and any contribution he made was erudite and incisive.  Apparently he credits his disability with his ability to think as comprehensively and with such quality as he did.

Thinking about situations where we think well, or not, and Nancy’s 10 components of the TE I pondered more about Prof Hawkins.  Certainly he gave his own thinking full attention and when others were in his presence he, of necessity would give them full attention.  So often we think knowing that we are going to be interrupted at some point, or that the listener will have the urge to drop in a comment, or finish our sentences.  That lack of respect, of equality, prevents us from true quality thinking. In Prof Hawkins’ case because he would not be able to instantly interrupt, the thinker in his presence would be at ease as a result – another of the 10 components.

Certainly the quality of his thinking was generative – his theory on black holes was revolutionary and his freshest thinking, that actually he could have been wrong about energy levels within them came about because he continued to have quality thoughts.  And perhaps he asked his own incisive question whilst he was thinking to have that change of theory – something that as coaches and facilitators we know the brain can do.

What lessons can we learn from him then that we can take into our own lives and organisations?  That we do not give ourselves enough time to just think?  That thinking is more creative, more productive when we have others that can help us to think?  That we should be open to proving ourselves wrong as a means of generating new ideas, new streams of productivity and new insights into how we solve the complex issues that face us?

From my viewpoint I will think more about how I can encourage such an environment for my clients and as Prof Hawkins said, ‘In my opinion, there is no aspect of reality beyond the reach of the human mind’.

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