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I see a problem in organisations. People’s diaries are so full that they rush from one meeting to the next. They don’t even leave space for the time it gets to take the lift to the next meeting room. Worst of all – there’s no time, space or silence in which to think and reflect. The workplace is increasingly frenetic as open plan offices allow you to be party to everyone’s conversation whether you want to or not. As a very sociable, fairly extravert person myself, it can be a recipe for distraction and time wasting. While we need people at work to be effective in teams, good at collaboration and relationship building, there are just some times when you need the peace to think. Interruptions are disastrous for thought processes or for really enjoying what you do. We know that people get into flow when they are truly engaged in an activity which really plays to their strengths. Nowadays a ‘closed door policy’ is likely to be met with condemnation or suspicion so a constant stream of, ‘You’re not busy are you?’ or ‘Can I just interrupt for a minute?’(you just did!) are often met with assent but are ruinous to both concentrated intellectual activity and creativity. Apparently those who are regularly interrupted make 50% more mistakes and take twice as long to complete tasks. Personality comes into it too. Some of us have a preference for going off into a darkened corner all alone before we can begin to get creative, only emerging to engage the team by saying, ‘Here’s an idea. What do you think?’ Others don’t know what they think at all until they are in the middle of a discussion which sparks their ideas for them. Yet most business thinking takes place in group settings, with questionable results. The word ‘brainstorm’ is frequently used to describe what turns out to be a rather vapid and uninspiring discussion by a few people in the group followed by an agreement to act in a fairly predictable fashion. Interestingly, electronic brainstorming is much more effective- using the internet to get a lot of people sitting by themselves somewhere to come up with ideas in privacy and get immediate feedback and further development of the idea. You are also never truly alone these days. With constant interruptions from phones, e-mail and forays onto the internet which then seduce you on to your Facebook page to check status updates (that’s what you are doing right now, isn’t it – not procrastinating or time wasting?), there is very little space in the day for thinking. Tunnel vision doesn’t help. Often people are so wedded to their work that they never read a book, go see a film or take a ten minute walk at lunchtime and look at their surroundings (no time, you see) As a result, they get duller and narrower in their thinking. Exactly the opposite of what we need to get us through this challenging economic time – same old, same old thinking without stimulation or challenge. Now, I feel pretty worried about organisations in which key people cannot even make the space to reflect on their actions, their choices, their people and themselves. That way wrong decisions and catastrophe lie. In fact the only time many people get is when they embark on a coaching programme which gives them space, the opportunity in both a supportive and challenging environment to consider their actions and their next move, protected from the outside world. It is in this setting that they are likely to experience those ‘ah hah’ moments when a fresh insight occurs or a penny drops into place So, when do you make time to review? How do you shut out the noise that surrounds you? How much do you question and review your ideas and your actions?

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