The SCN Encourager – Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Thinking about Thinking – The Sequel

Thinking about thinking is a difficult assignment. But there’s value in it – and that’s why I wrote about it yesterday. (And proved once again that writing is also a difficult assignment for me . . .) 

The comments I received from school communicators about yesterday’s linked podcast (from the Wisconsin Public Radio Show “To the Best of our Knowledge” 10/21/12) continued to keep me in thinking mode. (Two straight days of thinking about thinking are about my limit, though.)

A number of you resonated with Nobel laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s call to find the “time” to think. The overview of his System 1 (our quick instinct) and System 2 (our more deliberative) types of thinking provided a practical framework and it certainly has some direct applications in our work.

One reply brought up the topic of our school and administrative meetings. It seems that we have so many meetings (often with a long list of items jammed into a tight agenda) that the majority of our meetings are not able to offer attendees much more than coordinating information and calendars, responding to hot spots, reviewing policies and protocols, and receiving updates on organizational happenings. (But hey! Who’s complaining?  I’m a one-person school communications office. I need meetings like this!)

The commentator has a point, though. If the bulk of our meetings are about reacting to “stuff” (System 1 thinking), doesn’t this come at the expense of the time we need thinking about and clarifying our vision and purpose?

Good question, don’t you think? Luckily, I don’t have to answer this. The commentator contributed a good suggestion. (Whew! I can remain within the comfort of System 1.)

The suggestion was this (and it may be one you already do, so consider this a solid affirmation):  Whenever a meeting is coming up, the leader should try to provide adequate information to attendees ahead of time – and attach to the information the clear expectation that attendees should review the information and think about the topics on the agenda. And later, during the actual meeting, as “good” System 2 thinking comes up; the leader should be willing to squeeze out time for sharing and discussion.

This seems do-able, right? It doesn’t seem to have any nasty budget impacts. So why not consistently promote the fact that the quality of every meeting is directly related to the quality of the “pre-thinking” brought into it?

Hmm. Finding time to think – even before upcoming staff meetings. Got it! I know this is a good thing and I should do it more. I’ll just have to stockpile the aspirin, I guess.

Tom Page, SCN managing editor
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