Building Useful Thought Partnerships

David Nicoll, Ph.D
4 min readApr 2, 2022

Every thought partnership is its own developmental journey.

Photo by ALAN DE LA CRUZ on Unsplash

Most often, thought partnerships involve two partners. Occasionally, they might involve three or four partners. To ensure their long-term sustainability, thought partnerships should never be larger that four or five people.

Essential Tenets

Whatever its size, a thought partnership should be built to support and accomplish four things:

  • Focus its partners’ attention on the issues, concerns, and problems that the complexity of their work and the dysfunctions in their lives are creating for them.
  • Encourage each partner to question whether the complexity of the issues and problems currently confounding them will ever respond to simple solutions.
  • Encourage each partner to share their own lived experiences and personal expertise with their thought partners in ways that support clarity, respect, and understanding.
  • Create an environment in which the thought partners are neither an authority figure for the group nor a subordinate member.

An Enabling Environment

The environment these four tenets create enables the partners to recognize the complexity of the issues they’re dealing with. It helps them come to terms with why they need to bring forward, into their partnership’s joint knowledge construction process, their own internal voices. And, in this context, it helps the partners to recognize, value, and support their partners’ interdependent collaboration.

Thought Partnerships respect each partners’ deepest voices and personal experiences. In this kind of environment, the partners can realize the importance of learning-to-learn ideas, techniques, and know-how while they are strengthening their respective meaning-making capabilities.

Complexity’s Role

At this point in time, every Thought Partnership is a journey into the terrors and wonders of complexity. As suggested in TLO’s October blog, Transformational Learning Basics, this journey is always a developmentally sequenced effort. Post adolescence, each partner’s journey progresses through as many as four or five evolutionary stages. Supporting…

David Nicoll, Ph.D

I’m a dad, a reader, writer, and thought partner for individuals looking to improve their lives. My passion is learning and meeting this century’s challenges.