Next debate: Sun Mar 8 International Women’s Day 2015

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

The original version of the film The Battle of the Sexes was made in 1914… and while it might sound anachronistic it seems we’re not done yet. The most likely person to kill a woman is still her partner. 44% of women in the UK experience sexual violence at some time in their lives. In recent research I have done with young men they talk of the difficulty of understanding and dealing with unfamiliar emotions of attachment and jealousy with little or no guidance. As well as the shocking figures there is a more subtle problem that society as a whole needs to address.

ttt1503 IWD

On this year’s International Women’s Day we invite both men and women to consider the dysfunctional dance we have created between us and what actions might take to address the root causes of this situation which is not serving either gender.

For a quick and witty round up of the facts, you might want to prep by reading Soroya Chemely‘s piece on the Huffington Post. “according to UN gender reports, women perform 66% of the world’s work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income.

Click here to join the discussion on Sunday Mar 8th (4pm UK time, 5pm CET, 12pm EST)

Or book your place with Eventbrite

Dive into the Thinking Tank today to share your insights and consider those of the diverse group of participants we have come to expect. for a short while today think freely about something that affects us all and let’s see where we can get together.You can share your views in advance on twitter #ttt.

Check out our report from the last debate on nationality.  The Thinking Tank Report Nationality 1412

The Thinking Tank debate on Nationality revealed this to be a complex and under-considered topic which requires a more proactive approach to make the most of the potential benefits and mitigate against leaving it to be hijacked by nationalism.

The F-word Apr 12

Strengthen the female mind by enlarging it, and there will be an end to blind obedience.” Active in the late 1700s, Mary Wollstonecraft is considered one of the founding feminist philosophers. It’s been around as long as women, so what do we need feminism to do today? Or is it simply past its sell-by date?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think about feminism in 2012. Meanwhile tweet your views #tttfeminism

Here are a few points of view to get you thinking

@BillyBragg on physical equality: Anyone who believes that equality has been achieved and feminism no longer matters should listen to the women at #ididnotreport

@Pimpleye: I’m glad such a thing as feminism exists, it gives women something to occupy themselves with whilst the men do important stuff.

@Platform51: Our Woman of the Week is Fawzia Koofi, brave champion of feminism in Afghanistan.

@thenatfantastic: if you think you’re being ‘held back by feminism‘, chances are you are actually being held back by gross stupidity.

There is no shortage of strongly held views for and against, by both men and women. What are you thinking on this subject these days? Still work to be done? Time for a strategic repositioning? Wither feminism in 2012?

Join us online, 4pm UK time, Apr 12 and let’s see how we think

Results: the passing of time

On Jan 26 we paused for thought to consider our relationship with time. We were joined by Old Father Time who posed some challenging questions. Quotes below got majority support from the group. Those in bold were top 10 statements. Read the full list here Thinking Tank Time or read the summary below

Short of time?

Many of us were aware of a time squeeze.

  • chasing my tail trying to get what has to get done today done – thinking about this afternoon as opposed to time in the context of broader lifespan

While others seemed to have more of a balance

  • Time is like a rhythm. I am invigorated by sometimes racing through tasks and doing a lot, other times by sitting in silence watching the water. I like the changes in pace
  • I love wasting time once in a while.. just hang out, drink a glass, watch a stupid film on tv.. It gives me peace

So we had some advice on making better use of time

  • I try to make sure there’s some time-freedom in amongst a usually time-bound week
  • Those with life threatening illnesses talk positively about their better relationship with time and making good use of it

How much time do you want?

Old Father Time offered us a hypothetical choice of how long we wanted the rest of our life to last for. Choices varied from 10 to 1000 years but the majority plumped for about a century.Aside from wanting to be healthy during this time there were only two strongly shared views on the reason for wanting more time:

  • [I would spend it ] enjoying it and giving it sense
  • Time to have several lives /careers

Time for a change?

In closing we considered any learnings from the discussion. There was certainly more consideration of time, and an intention to be more conscious.

  • I think we are not enough in touch with time, the present. How could it be is we feel we are chasing all the time, needing to prioritise constantly.  A greater connection with the moment should educate us to have a better relationship with time.
  • [we can consider] high value uses of time and low value uses of time … looked at and determined by contribution, progress, impact on quality of life

Click here to join our next debate on Feb 23. 4pm (UK time) where we will be discussing the future of capitalism. Bring your bonus, your politics, your resentments and your ideas!

Modern Rituals. 22 Dec 2011

In the December 2011 Thinking Tank we considered rituals and their role in modern society. Some of the discussion focused on Christmas preparations but we also considered marriage, funerals and other rituals. There was some dissent over what was a ritual and what was just a habit, but in general a triumph of personal meaning over social conformity. Just over 100 ideas were proposed and considered by the group. Here is a summary of what was shared

Espresso Summary: Top 5 (the most supported comments)

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Christmas feels like a big task. Not just the work involved (wrapping presents, preparing food etc) but also the ritualistic ways people behave at this time of year
  • Christmas is too commercial
  • Rituals don’t work when they too superficial – no time and no space to really pay attention to people

Latte Summary: when you have a bit more time


General view is that they can – and should – be personalised to increase their meaning

  • You don’t need “official” rituals to have rituals of your own – different and at different periods of the year
  • Rituals are fine as long as they can be somewhat “tempered” otherwise they could be quite boring
  • Some of the old rituals appears as not mine, others are new and very welcome

There were less supported comments about the specifics of Christmas preparations – carols and family and gifts and food.


Benefits of rituals were contemplative: a time for reflection, pause for thought.  rather than anything to do with pomp and circumstance.

  • The positive side is that it creates space for family time, that it creates moments in the family history
  • Is almost a way to learn myself better, getting a deeper insight into myself
  • My marriage: although I don’t believe in God, I enjoyed the ritual.
  • a time to share

Opinion was divided on more mundane rituals – these comments became Synthetrons but also attracted negative scoring.

  • arriving home. Not just shuffling in and getting straight into the jobs but taking a moment to arrive, greet each other, be present
  • Having a cold shower after a family struggle – you are immediately nourished by fresh energy
  • The checkin and checkout of meetings: To get a sense of the feelings that are in the room, to see the development of the meeting, to get a closer feeling to what happens


There are potential downsides to rituals that the group were aware of, mostly around coercion and falseness:

  • when a ritual is felt more as a constraint rather than an event to look forward to
  • When the ritual itself becomes more important than its original intention
  • When everyone pretends

The group agreed on some strategies to avoid these risks

  • rituals must be considered as occasions – not obligations
  • Distinguish between personal rituals and traditional rituals. Maybe knowing our own reason for participating makes a difference too. It’s not the ritual that has meaning in itself, it is we who choose to bring it meaning (or just go through the emotions)


Ah. Let’s hope that we can all remember these wise words in our hearts during the Christmas and other seasonal festivities

  • a ritual that encourages me to think of the rhythm of life, the tides, the seasons, the births and deaths. Get a sense of perspective and stop obsessing about my own trivia
  • a ritual that encourages us to look within hearts and also at our global connectedness
  • A trueness-ritual … perhaps … like this: If I was born in Ohio, now i would be this, if i was born in Kabul, now i would be this, if I was born in ….
  • A ritual that includes time for deep reflection in a safe environment
  • pause to think about the meaning of what we do
  • It’s not about the stuff – or the stuffing! It’s about the meaning. I can choose for it to be meaningful or I can choose for it to be a chore. Right now I am hoping to have the presence of mind to choose meaningful.
  • Relax, be authentic, thoughtful of others

Full Summary

Click on this pdf file to see all the comments 1112 Rituals full report

Next: Sep 29th 4pm. Lies, damn lies…

Next discussion

No, thatWhen do you lie? Does it matter? Is lying increasing or on the wane as transparency shifts our expectations but mobile phones and Second Life allow us to be who we want, when we want? Good for you? Bad for me?

CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th


CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

    Future Thinking Tank Discussions

    (always Thursdays, always 4pm UK  / 5pm Euro / 11am US East Coast…). Topics may change if there is a more pressing issue at the time. Please feel free to make suggestions by adding a comment below

    • 20 Oct: Prosperity. As we approach Diwali* let’s consider what prosperity means in the 21st century and how we can enjoy and spread it
    • 24 Nov: tbc
    • 22 Dec (Winter Solstice): Rituals and their role in modern society. As you prepare for Christmas, Hannukah, recover from Eid or plan your own rites, we take a break to reflect on why rituals are so important to us and how they might help even a post-modernist society.
    • New Year (Jan ). Stopping and Starting. What will you leave behind with 2011, what will you work on in 2012?

    * Diwali, the festival of light, is an important day for Hindu (awareness of inner light), Jain (equivalent of Easter when Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana) and Sikh (celebration of freedom) communities as well as the beginning of the Indian financial year

    CLICK HERE to join the discussion on Sep 29th

    Results: why we are not as ethical as we think

    One of the first things I noticed about today’s debate was the poll results. At the beginning each participant rated themselves on a scale of 1-5 how ethical they are. The weighted average was 4.4. At the end of the discussion we took the same poll and scored ourselves as 3.7. As a main premise of Bazerman and Tenbrunsel’s recent book “Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It” is the tendency to turn a blind eye to our own failures to be ethical (like the mice on the right), it seems that the Thinking Tank helped to raise consciousness. It’s a good start.

    And some of the well supported statements in our last 5 minutes was a good finish:

    • when I tell my wife what I was doing all this time on my pc I shall answer, I was working on how to make the world a little better
    • Thank you very much- I think we learned quite a lot due to our anonymous discussion…….

    What we need to be ethical

    We generally agreed that ethics were necessary and standards should be met. But how? The 2 strongest statements in the debate were both about what support we need to be ethical:

    • a clear set of values
    • having the guts to risk being unpopular / sacked, having a greater purpose

    We also agreed (like Barry Schwartz on TED) that actions speak louder than words:

    • it is not about the word but more about the behaviour
    • Yes, bringing ethics into everyday life and conversation is a great idea. It cannot be left in theory-land
    • ethics is not just a philosophical concept, it is a day to day issue to discuss and bring to life
    • It is not sustainable for us to all behave selfishly (often the opposite to ethically). In the end we all suffer

    And the actions that the group supported most strongly are:

    • I will live and act more closely to my set of values
    • I must be on the alert watching the public discussion on ethics, including the role of the churches and our politicians, discussing these items with my family and children
    • speak up if I notice unethical behaviour

    The ethical problem

    We also had a frank discussion about the challenges of ethical behaviour. Although as a group we found it easier to criticise others (child abusers, politicians, high profile business fraudsters) than analyse our own shortfalls, there were some personal admissions:

    • So easy to lose touch with reality and believe in your own version of the universe
    • The same thing happens with discounters when they mistreat their employees but you go there shopping almost every day

    The most common feelings from behaviour falling short of our own ethical standards is guilt

    • Feel like I let myself and others down. That I was not enough.
    • Feel like I just learnt something and will avoid that mistake next time
    • Turning a blind eye is easy in the short term than hard to live with in the long term. I feel like a coward

    If this is an issue that interests you and you would like to see a complete list of the 100 statements put forward and evaluated, contact me Join us next month? Thurs June 16th, 4-4.45pm UK time. All welcome.

    Try this May 31 at 1pm UK time: RSA talk on Jonathan Wolff on #ethics and public life.

    Next Thinking Tank 19.05.2011 “We’re not as ethical as we think”

    This is the challenge thrown down by Max H. Bazerman, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Ann E. Tenbrunsel, a professor of business ethics at the University of Notre Dame. Their new book examines the reality gap between how “good” we like to think we are and what we do in practice. Uncomfortable stuff.

    The main causes they identify include biases and prejudices, turning a blind eye and self interest. In our discussion we will attempt to look at our own blind spots and consider what we – and society – can do to address this issue.

    Join us for this online debate where we dare to examine our deepest motives. 45 minute live event on Thursday 19 May. Starts 4pm UK time, 5pm CET

    See here for information about their book: Blind Spots: Why We Fail to Do What’s Right and What to Do about It

    Join the discussion here. As promoted on RSA USA website

    Thinking Tank 21.03.2011 Global or local?

    The subject for this week’s Thinking Tank discussion Is Local or Global? Where would you start to make the world a better place?Thinking Tank debate Global or local

    When I worked in multinationals and international development, I was all for global solutions. The more time I spend at a microcommunity level the more I wonder if it isn’t just the same – so we may as well do something where we find ourselves. You may feel though that big initiatives like global warming need a top-down approach.

    This Thursday, online, at 4pm GMT. Be local, be global, enlighten and be enlightened. Stretch your mind with people you might never otherwise meet. And if you can’t make the live event, why not twitter now using #tanklocal and we can feed in your comments

    Next Thinking Tank 17.03.2011 4pm OR 8pm GMT

    In our next discussion we will consider Enlightenment 2.0Bold Vision Enlightenment 17.03.2011. What does it mean to you? Does it matter? Does it help?

    Both discussions will follow a similar format, though the journey can be quite different depending on who is there. Pick the time that suits you best 4pm GMT or 8pm GMT.

    Be enlightening, be enlightened. Stretch your mind with people you might never otherwise meet.

    Pick the time that suits you best 4pm GMT or 8pm GMT. Be enlightening, be enlightened. Stretch your mind with people you might never otherwise meet.


    Peace Thinking Tank 16.12.2010

    A far from peaceful debate, though with slightly more convergence around barriers to peace than we saw regarding desirability or actions for peace.

    There were clearly different schools of thought – the peaceniks and the economists for one.

    The most strongly supported statements throughout the discussion was about the challenge of peace (less appealing than polarity):

    • It brings focus to be against something. A sense of unity. Easier to agree on what we hate than what we love

    Building on the earlier statement:

    • Polarity give us a feeling of safety or of “righteousness” it is clearer to see what one stands for.

    Guest participants
    As a new feature we had “guest” participants – relevant quotes from a range of well known people. Not all of them went down well, but top performers were

    • When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.” Peace Pilgrim
    • Without conflict, there is no progress or change.” Marx
    • As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself… Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” Nelson Mandela
    • If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.” Dalai Lama

    And these views were reflected in our conclusions at the end of the debate:

    • more than ever we need leaders who are able to move the crowd in an ethical way
    • funny he we talk about world peace and yet our own peace over Xmas is a challenge :)
    • I like the comment that peace requires “material and cultural equilibrium”  bit this may be the start of a possible solution!

    Barriers to peace – religion, poverty and ignorance

    Before we got there though, we considered why peace is so elusive – what gets in our way?

    • Religion was an early suspect: Or power struggles USE religious beliefs to generate loyalty
    • And poverty: how can you feel peace in your heart when you are hungry every day
    • Lack of guidance: Who teaches children about peace? parents, schoolteachers, priests, etc: – not many of them
    • And greed: We don’t want to be equal, we are greedy to be better off than average. So we encroach on each other

    Personal actions

    As usual, at the end of the debate we considered the actions we could take personally. In the course of the discussion, some developed an appetite for peace action:

    • There is still time to do something for peace in 2010! 15 more days!
    • Support charities working for peace!
    • In the home / workplace / community / traffic jam I might try to notice when I’m taking a polarity position instead of a wholeness one
    • make peace with one of my enemies
    • I am buying peace as my xmas presents
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