Information Exchange – Timing Counts

By Cindy Vallance

Principle 7 to develop a thinking environment is INFORMATION. There is no question that information is power, you get what you measure, and that evidence based decision making requires the right information at the right time. As Nancy Kline puts it “withholding information from someone is an act of intellectual imperialism” while conversely, “not bothering to seek information is an act of intellectual recklessness.”

However, one challenge is to strike the right timing balance when it comes to information exchange. What should we think about if we want to get the timing right?

Firstly, resist the urge to interrupt a speaker midstream. How do you really know what the other person is about to say unless you allow them to finish providing the information they wish to convey?

But what if they are misinformed? Shouldn’t you jump right in to correct them? If you are truly trying to support them to think, the answer may be ‘not yet.’ Think about your goal – do you want to show them they don’t know as much as you do or do you genuinely want to work with them to be a thinking equal? That doesn’t mean being irresponsible by withholding information, it simply means getting the timing right.

Secondly, think about timing when asking for information. Sometimes just listening will bring you the answers you need. If your goal is to help someone else to think then don’t ask them a question when they are in the middle of a stream of thought. Wait, pay attention and really listen.


One thought on “Information Exchange – Timing Counts”

  1. These points are really useful; listening is a practical tool which that often requires effort and practice. I am reminded of the observations of various commentators who suggest that the best managers base their decision-making and improvement actions on knowledge (what we know, don’t know and what we will never know).

    Listening enables us to differentiate the first two aspects of knowledge appropriately; when we stop to listen carefully we avoid making assumptions (caused when we interrupt people, asuming we know what they are going to say) and we make space for finding the meaning behind people’s views and ideas (by letting them consider and expand on what they have said. By listening we open up issues so that that are known and understood by both ourselves and the person (or people) expressing the idea or issue.

    Listening properly also allows us to intelligently ask for clarification if we need it, or if we wish the person to reflect on their comment (it also gives the other person two chances to express their views).

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