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  • Toby Sinclair

Book Summary: Time To Think by Nancy Kline

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

Time To Think Book Summary

⭐ Rating: 10/10

😃 Recommended For: Everyone

✏️ Time To Think Summary Written by Meghan Kirkland

3 Big Ideas from Time To Think by Nancy Kline 💡

Time to Think by Nancy Kline helps you build a Thinking Environment:

  1. Everything we do depends on the thinking we do first. Thinking for ourselves is still seen as quite a radical act. Traditionally, most of our societies have not created the conditions for us to think for ourselves. Many of us are therefore profoundly unsettled when confronted with the simple question: ‘What do you really think?’ The quality of actions depends first on the quality of the thinking behind them.

  2. The quality of a person’s attention determines the quality of other people’s thinking. How we give others our attention, listen, and say that ‘you matter’, directly correlates to the thinking quality of the person sitting in front of us. The ‘mind that holds the problem also holds the solution’. You help cultivate this solution discovery through the quality of your attention and listening presence. Focus on setting up the conditions for the person to think for themselves; to access their own ideas and solutions.

  3. There are ten components of ‘The Thinking Environment’. These components can be used both at the organisational (‘The Thinking Organisation’) and at the individual level (‘The Thinking Partnership’). All ten are important, but even just using one component will dramatically improve the quality of someone’s thinking. An example is the ability of the ‘listener’ to craft incisive questions to remove assumptions that limit ideas, thus freeing up the mind of the thinker to move beyond limiting assumptions and beliefs and access better ideas for themself.

2 Best Quotes from Time To Think by Nancy Kline 💬

“Attention, the act of listening with palatable respect and fascination, is the key to a Thinking Environment. Listening of this calibre is enzymatic. When you are listening to someone, much of the quality of what you are hearing is your effect on them.
“All of this is reason enough to do it. But perhaps most important is the possibility that by taking steps in this way to turn our world into a Thinking Environment, into a place this stimulating, this kind, this alive, this authentic, where no human mind is wasted, and no human heart is trampled, we will not only improve things for ourselves but we may also create a legacy we would be proud to leave.”

Top Takeaway

Meghan’s Time to Think book summary top takeaways.

Within Time To Think, Nancy Kline describes an extremely elegant process and conditions to help improve the quality of thinking. Both in organisations and partnerships. For me, there were some very tangible and practical changes that could be implemented within any environment:

Allow others to speak fully

When you interrupt or finish someone else’s sentence you are saying that either your words will be better (or that you know their words) and that they cannot finish their own sentence. Let others do and finish their own thinking, let them formulate their thoughts, let the words be their words.

Take turns

Create meeting structures where everyone has a turn to speak, knowing they will not be interrupted. In a Thinking Environment, everyone is a thinking equal, regardless of hierarchy, giving everyone a turn increases the intelligence of the group and will save time in the long run.

Listen to surface any assumptions and ask incisive questions

Being able to craft an incisive question can free up more thinking and thought. Nancy Kline articulates some brilliant ones for leaders to ask themselves:

  • If I were to be my real self in leadership, what would I do differently?

  • What is limiting my leadership? If I were to assume something more liberating, what would change?

As well as to ask their team:

  • How would your work have to change for it to be exactly right for you?

  • If you were not holding back, what would you be doing?

  • What do we already know now that we are going to find out in a year?


Take time to appreciate those around you, Nancy Kline suggests that a 5-1 appreciation to criticism ratio helps people to think for themselves. Practically, she advocates at the end of meetings to take time to say one quality you respect of the person to your right (nowadays the next person on your virtual meeting screen!). Often we are quick to criticise, Kline asserts that actually, our thinking improves when we are in the presence of concrete appreciation.

Time To Think Summary

I personally love Time to Think, I had the pleasure of attending training with Nancy Kline in 2017 and since then I have been hooked. On this way of being and moving through the world. It is an inspirational and highly thought-provoking read. I highly recommend it for anyone; it has application in how we show up in all our worlds- whether that be in the personal or professional sphere.

📹 Prefer Video?

This video expands on the ideas from Meghan's Time to Think summary


Time To Think Summary Written by: Meghan Kirkland

Meghan Kirkland

Inspired by my two children, I’m on a mission to create better and more human workplaces for future generations! I love working with others to understand their reason why and purpose, and also with organisations to figure out how to create and scale innovative, fun and meaningful cultures.

📚 I have loved to read since childhood; it always feels a privilege to access the mind of someone else and be invited to experience a new viewpoint and perspective.

📗 A book I’ve been recently recommending is The Squiggly Career by Helen Tupper & Sarah Ellis. The authors also just released You Coach You


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