People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening. – Paul Simon
Let’s talk about the value of silence. Intentional silence. You, alone with your thoughts.
But now, let’s consider the value of silence— you alone with your thoughts, but in a room with other people also alone with their thoughts.
Now, in that silence, let’s consider “guiding” those thoughts in the silence.
First, you focus… in silence. Then, you begin speaking.
This is a new trend. At least, a small trend. It’s a practice at the top levels at Amazon. And it’s a new idea—an idea that has already proven to be an improvement on the “old way” for brainstorming sessions.
I’m a big fan of this trend. Big fan! I think it is brilliant. And I’ve tried it out, and it makes for better conversation between the people in the room. Further down, I’ll describe what I am doing with this idea.
Here’s the Amazon idea. What they do at Amazon is that for each meeting of his “S Team”, the top team, a different person writes a six-page narrative to be read in silence by the members of the group… together. They do not get the document before the meeting. It is handed out, and the people read it, mark it up, come up with their own questions and reflections; and then, after about 30 minutes of silent reading and reflection, they begin their discussion.
Now the new findings for brainstorming. I read about it in this article by Vivian Giang. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
All of the participants sat together in a room separated by dividers to refrain them from making visible contact with one another.
Researchers further tested the impact cognitive fixation has on others’ ideas by altering the number of ideas that different group participants were exposed to. They found that the more notifications a participant saw, the less creative, diverse ideas they offered.
In the first five minutes of the session, individual participants generated 44% more ideas than the group participants, but this number decreased with time, which concludes that a group session after an individual session might be the optimal brainstorming technique.
So, for better brainstorming, have individuals write their ideas (obviously, prompted by a common question) in silence; and after some silence, begin the verbal discussion.
Here’s what I think. In this smartphone age of always checking e-mail and minds going one thousand ways at once, we need to help a group “focus on the same thing” in a meeting or a group discussion of any kind. One way to do this is to focus on the same thing in silence. Whether it is a document for each to read, or a question to respond to individually on paper, it focuses the members of the group on the same thing. The silence is a great focuser! Then, that silent-facilitated shared focus enables much deeper and more productive discussions.
To be silent is not to lose your tongue. On the contrary, it is only through silence that one can discover something new to talk about. One who talked incessantly, without stopping to look and listen, would repeat himself ad nauseam.
– Alan W. Watts
I think you should explore the creative use of “silence together” on your team. You might find it to be very much worth the effort. That’s certainly what I’ve found.
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis
This is very well stated Randy. I am a “talker” by personality and sometimes it is an effort to sit and “analyze” or “over analyze” a topic. The concept of a silent focus would have saved me many trips down the wrong rabbit hole trying to solve too many diverse problems at once. One personality program I participated in said that I took in what information I “thought” I needed and then quickly moved on! I did that whether I was right or not. I wish I had encountered this wisdom when was younger!
I think we all would have benefited from learning at a younger age that silence is truly golden. 🙂