Sophie creates an ideal environment for thinking and learning.

Driving along the winding country roads at the edge of the Peak District, I knew that this was going to be an inspiring couple of days. Last year I had booked onto this course to improve my facilitation skills and to transform meetings from boring and time wasting into clear-thinking and invigorating, with clear outcomes. This sounded like a challenge that I was keen to take on.

The main reason for selecting this course came from my interest in Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment which I have discovered as part of my Coaching and Mentoring studies at Sheffield Hallam University. My tutor had recommended Sophie as an excellent course leader.

Sophie chooses her locations carefully to ensure the best conditions for good quality thinking. As I drove through the beautiful village of Edale and arrived at The Gathering, I was greeted by beautiful open moorlands, waterfalls and the smell of firewood; a wonderful haven of tranquility.

Day one began with introductions. 7 interesting people with their own stories and reasons for attending. We spent the morning examining some of the key components of the Thinking Environment and focused on the premise that the quality of meetings will depend on the quality of the thinking beforehand. How many times do we put agendas together with little planning or thought? Imagine how much better the meeting will be if we spend more time on thorough preparation? Why not frame each item as a question to ignite our thinking? How many times do we actually ask: ‘why are we meeting?’ and ‘what is our desired outcome?’. This all seems obvious, but I have certainly been guilty of holding meetings without a purpose. No more!

Sophie’s skilled facilitation and the enthusiasm of the group made for a very safe space and an opportunity to learn from each other.

There are nine applications to The Thinking Environment and we were able to consider these alternative methods of working to help people think well and achieve improved outcomes for the group. Not everyone can give their best thoughts in a group setting.

A delicious vegan lunch and plentiful refreshments kept us all on form for both days. I want to thank Sophie for sharing her passion, positivity and enthusiasm with us all. My aim is to try my best to ‘be’ a Thinking Environment. It will take time and practice, and hopefully will require attendance at more TE courses!

Thank you to the other course members; an inspirational group of new friends with whom we shared something very special. A final big ‘thank you’ to The Rank Foundation for supporting the cost of this course through their bursary scheme.