Creating a Thinking Organization
by Rikki Hunt with Tony Buzan

Published by Gower

ISBN No. 0 566 08230 6

Reviewed by Phil Chambers


Rikki Hunt, former managing director of Burmah Petroleum Fuels Ltd, and Tony Buzan, expert on thinking and learning, have joined forces to produce "Creating a Thinking Organization" - Groundrules for Success.

The book is divided into four sections:

I - Creating the Environment
II - Thinking in the Environment
III - Leading in the Environment
IV - The Thinking Organization in Practice

Although there are many other books that cover in greater detail the thinking techniques described in section II (Mind Mapping®, Force Field Analysis, Clustering, Brainstorming & Six Thinking Hats), Hunt has the unique insight of first establishing a culture in which they can flourish. Without this culture defined by the set of seven "groundrules" that he describes in Section I, thinking techniques become what he calls 'fad management' and are doomed to failure: "With fad management, if you're lucky, you achieve some movement in some people as long as the person driving the fad is still there and the programme is live. But this soon fizzles out when the programme is perceived as being completed."

As well as providing a framework for thinking, the groundrules can also be used as an open 360º appraisal tool. The "groundrules review", as this process is called, focuses on the relationship between the manager and staff member in the context of each ground rule in turn thereby aligning the relationship with the company vision.

Having put his ideas into practice to turn round the fortunes of Burmah and then to start the highly successful "Petrol Express", Hunt writes from experience. He illustrates his points with anecdotes and examples giving the book a very practical and down to earth feel. This is balanced by Tony Buzan's end of section summaries which put the material into the context of theories about learning and the brain.

Section III describes "Meta" Leaders, people who "understand why others follow them and are comfortable to follow when needed". Perception and change are also covered - Explaining how someone else's perception of you is their reality. Using Saville & Holdsworth's perception questionnaire you can gain an insight into other people's view of you with the possibility of changing it. Finally in this chapter the idea that change is constant, is considered along with the implications and a view of why some people actively seek change and how their characteristics differ to those that don't.

Section IV describes why the Thinking Organization model works, provides a process to implement the plan and gives evidence of the changes in attitudes and working practices of a group of individuals five years after implementing the Thinking Organization strategy.

Although written from the perspective of organizational change, the strategies described are equally applicable to individuals, families and even schools. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever tried a thinking technique but has fallen back to their old habits, or who is interested in starting using a new technique.