Past Event

How do you avoid entrenched and entrained thinking?

A Gurteen Knowledge Café


Event Type

Knowledge Café

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Network for Information and Knowledge Exchange (NetIKX)

Event Link

http://www.netikx.org/content/david-gurteen-knowle ... 


Thu 16 Mar 2017


British Dental Association


London, United Kingdom



Knowledge cafés are a powerful tool for knowledge managers. David Gurteen is one of the foremost exponents of this method. To find out more about his take on knowledge cafés, see his website, http://knowledge.cafe/knowledge-cafe-concept/. David defines the essence of a knowledge café thus: “The only hard and fast rule is that the meeting is conducted in such a way that most of the time is spent in conversation – it is not about one person presenting to the group”.

We are privileged that David is willing to run such an event for NetIKX. This knowledge café will focus on issues around shaking up people's ideas and we have chosen the challenging topic of entrained and entrenched thinking. We hope that this will be of interest and value to anyone who wants an opportunity to explore “thinking out of the box” for an afternoon in the company of fellow IM and KM specialists.

Avoiding [entrenched and] entrained thinking

The concept of an ‘entrenched' opinion is all too familiar! Someone has a point of view and is ‘dug in' to defend it – perhaps against an imagined other someone in another trench, with an opposite point of view. When these behaviours get in the way of reasoned discourse and good decision making, we might use conversational strategies to break the impasse.

‘Entrained thinking' is a less familiar concept, but also hampers good collective decision making and opinion forming. David Snowden introduced the term, in a paper co-authored with Mary Boone, in the Harvard Business Review in 2007: '[E]ntrained thinking [is] a conditioned response that occurs when people are blinded to new ways of thinking by the perspectives they acquired through past experience, training, and success'.

Adding experts to a conversation can actually increase the risk of entrained thinking. Creative opportunities in problem-solving are lost if experts overlook or dismiss suggestions by non-experts. Boone and Snowden cite examples where good results came from using new forms of conversational framework to elicit a broader spread of ideas and perspectives.

More generally in collective thinking contexts – committee meetings, to take one example – the ideas considered are often restricted because of group dynamics. Sometimes, it's because of power relations. Often, it's just how certain ideas are batted forwards and backwards, while other people taking part in the meeting ‘can't get a word in edgeways'. Some ideas are presented in such a dominant way that novel approaches are never considered. These are some of the problems which Edward de Bono tried to solve with his ‘lateral thinking' methods, and one of the reasons why many people gain such a lot out of Open Space and David Gurteen's Knowledge Café processes. Although many of these approaches seem artificial and game-like, they can be valuable and liberating.

Normally a NetIKX meeting includes a ‘syndicate session'. The structure of a Gurteen Knowledge Café is different. For this meeting, we shall consider: What factors in people's backgrounds, and even professional education, lead to them having a ‘blinkered' view of the range of available opinions and policy decisions, especially at work? How might this be mitigated?; when we meet together in groups to discuss and decide, what meeting dynamics get in the way of considering the broadest possible range of opinions and inputs? Could we run such meetings differently and obtain better results?; What are the first two questions forgetting to consider?


David Gurteen needs no introduction to readers of this site, but he is a keynote speaker and conversational facilitator.

He works in the fields of knowledge management, organisational learning and conversational leadership. He gives keynote talks, designs and facilitates knowledge cafés and runs workshops around the world.

He is best known as the creator of the Gurteen Knowledge Café – a versatile conversational process to bring a group of people together to learn from each other, share experiences and make better sense of a rapidly changing, complex, less predictable world in order to improve decision making and to innovate.

He has facilitated hundreds of knowledge cafés and workshops in over 30 countries around the world over the last 13 years.

He is the founder of the Gurteen Knowledge Community – a global network of over 22,000 people in over 160 countries and he publishes his regular monthly Knowledge-Letter, which is now in its 16th year.

You will find information on hundreds of events such as conferences, workshops and courses on this website - events that relate to the themes of the site: knowledge, learning, creativity, innovation and personal development.

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If you are interested in Knowledge Management, the Knowledge Café or the role of conversation in organizational life then you my be interested in this online book I am writing on Conversational Leadership
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The Gurteen Knowledge Community
The Gurteen Knowledge Community is a global learning community of over 21,000 people in 160 countries across the world.

The community is for people who are committed to making a difference: people who wish to share and learn from each other and who strive to see the world differently, think differently and act differently.

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