• joe@jhanderson.biz   
    (206) 351-5607   

  • Daniel Kahneman’s book Thinking Fast and Slow is a compelling, deeply researched argument that human brains have two systems for engaging in thinking. What he calls “System 1” is fast, instinctive and emotional.  “System 2” is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. System 1 is the source of a lot of our cognitive bias—the shortcuts we use to make quick decisions—as well as the emotional reactivity that leads us to act and speak without deliberation.

    Since “thinking fast” is often at a premium, particularly when you’re working on a high-pressure initiative, deliberative thinking can be hard to come by. What would it mean for your team to make the choice to slow down periodically that you can access system 2 thinking?

    One method is the practice of “wisdom council.” Indigenous and traditional cultures around the world have made use of this set of tools for millennia, to engage in deep reflection and create space for thoughtful discourse and dialogue. Sometimes thinking fast is a necessity, but the council tradition can teach us a lot about thinking slow.

    Some wisdom council principles include:

    • Speak from the heart. Take the time to see what you have to say before you say it.
    • Speak to the heart. Pay attention to the response of others when you speak.
    • Focus on the responsibility of this group, right here, right now. Don’t get caught up in what happened yesterday, what might happen tomorrow, or whose fault it is.
    • Recognize the presence of power relationships. If you hold organizational power, be cautious about using it when you are in council; if you don’t have power, see if you can find the courage to speak up boldly, within reason.
    • Honor the principle of equal time. One way to equalize power is to give all speakers an equal opportunity to speak. Use a stopwatch if you need to.
    • Find your place around the “campfire.” In a council, not everyone is moved to speak. Everyone has permission to remain silent if they choose to. Who speaks, and who remains silent, may be an interesting and informative surprise.

    Try It: Choose an issue your team has been wrestling with, and continually falling into System 1 (fast) thinking. Find an hour to sit with the issue in System 2 mode, making space for silence, reflection, and honoring the principles of the wisdom council. Observe what progress you make and what you learn about the issue and your relation to it that you didn’t know before.

    Image: Ed Dunens: Victoria Range. Grampians National Park. Victoria.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/blachswan/40374816245   (CC BY 2.0)