What is thinking – A London Gurteen Knowledge café

I attended another entertaining and thought provoking Gurteen Knowledge Café in London last night. A good mixture of old faithfuls and newbies, KM old school and some individuals not quite sure why they were there made for an enjoyable set of conversatons.

The space and refreshments were very kindly provided by Deloitte (thank you) and hosted of course by David Gurteen. As part of the now expected ritual we then moved quickly into three rounds of speed dating which were of course far too short and started the most interesting conversations which we would have to continue later.

David being David, instead of taking control and promoting himself then altruistically passed over complete control of the rest of the evening to Richard McDermott

Richard is world renowned for his work on cultivating communities but last night he introduced us to his latest research on thinking. What do knowledge workers do with the knowledge they have? We all understand the concept of expertise but how do experts think and make decisions?

After a brief, 15 minute,  introduction Richard then posed the question “what is thinking” and the knowledge café obligingly went into action.

Our table of  ten (might have been eight) then had long and interesting discussions about what thinking was, how decisions are made, what exactly is an expert.

I think Richard had forgotten that a knowledge café includes periodic disruption of the groups but hey we had longer to develop our ideas and I thought everyone participated in active listening superbly giving everyone a fair chance to contribute.

Finally a full room conversation, some with a microphone, others didn’t need one. Amusingly the elephant in the room was Dave Snowden who despite being at the other side of the world was regularly referenced as “Dave would say this” or “but Dave is wrong when he suggests that”.

A summary of the final conversations will be posted on the Gurteen LinkedIn Group pages so I will refrain from detailing them here, get across to LinkedIn and join.

All in all an enjoyable evening. David’s suggestion that we then meet up in the pub, ‘The End’ (actually a wine bar that looked like a pizza restaurant, eeeugh), we took literally and went into a really nice Young’s real ale pub at the end of the block. Business cards were exchanged, ideas to fix the worlds current problems were formulated, and chunky chips were devoured (thanks Inga).

I repeat my previous Kcafe comments when I suggest that organisations ought to sponsor a knowledge café to come to their premises and discuss an intractable  problem of their choosing. What David uniquely provides is a crowd of the brightest minds (and me) that could be put to great use resolving issues and suggesting actionable solutions.

The table in the foyer was littered with name cards of people who booked the event but failed to attend, so shame on you (yes you) for preventing another bright mind from attending, K cafes need commitment not ‘oh well I might come along’.

In the meantime keep up the good work David.

See also Rebecca Gebhardt Brizi’s blog post on this K cafe


  1. Glad you had a good time. A little philosophy test to check what you have learned:

    If you think about what you are thinking, who is you that does the thinking which you are thinking about and who is you that is thinking about that thinking, and how well do they know each other?

    If you then make a decision, is it based on the thinking about thinking or just the thinking, and who (if anyone) made the decision?

  2. I think you have lost me there Robert. In some ways the sea has knowledge of the coastline as it comes into contact, but what makes a difference is learning how to think, and even more so, learning how to think about thinking. Descartes should at least have said, I think about thinking therefore I am, he was one level short, but he was French so I forgive him! ooooh! I think A and E lost their innocence by becoming aware that they both thought, And thought about how the other thought, it happens for some people at about 6 years of age, for others, maybe never!

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