Talking Less Stimulates Innovation

Friday, November 9, 2007 General News
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TILBURG, The Netherlands, November 8 A few minutes ofsilent thinking during a meeting strengthens the innovative ability of agroup. This can even double the amount of new ideas, especially in a groupthat has at least one person who is relatively introverted. This is what Arnede Vet concluded in his PhD dissertation about the effect of silentlythinking on creativity and innovation.

For most businesses, innovation is of vital importance. At the same timeteams and (team) meetings are increasingly playing an important role. Whenmanagers want to develop new ideas, they often schedule a joint brainstormsession. And also due to the growing pressure of work there continues to beless time for individual reflection. Arne de Vet examined whether talkingless and taking more time to quietly think by oneself could influenceinnovation. His study of the social and cognitive psychology literature ofthe last 30 years and his experimental study of more than 400 persons haveled to a number of interesting results.

Brain capacity for new ideas

Talking and thinking at the same time, as is necessary for instance at ameeting, lowers the creativity for some people. This multi-tasking requires alot of brain capacity - especially for those who are sensitive to reactionsand opinions of others and that find it difficult to modify their story tothis. Because of this, there is less capacity available for generating newideas.

Five minutes of silent thinking

The creativity of a group rises tremendously when the discussion isinterrupted to think quietly. Five minutes of quietly thinking during ameeting of 45 minutes doubled the amount of ideas of the group, especially ina group with at least one introvert person. An intermezzo gives individualstime to come up with new ideas without being disturbed.

Debate and result

A group debate can have a lot of influence on the character and qualityof the (strategic) decision, as was found by De Vet. Incremental innovationarises more often from the debate of a group that consists of people thatfind it difficult to adjust their story to the influences and expressions ofothers. When the group consists of people that are able to modify theirpresentation to the opinions of others, group debate more often leads to adecision for a radical innovation.

A.J. (Arne) de Vet (1972, Schiedam) studied business economics at theErasmus University Rotterdam and got his MBA from INSEAD, France. He workedfrom 1996 to 2003 as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company and from2004 to 2007 for the Tilburg University. He has been an independentmanagement consultant in the area of strategy, organization and innovationsince 2003.

Arne de Vet will obtain his Doctorate on Friday November 16, 2007 at04:15 p.m. at the Auditorium of the University of Tilburg (Warandelaan 2).His supervisor is Professor Dr H.G. Barkema.

The dissertation "The effects of thinking in silence on creativity andinnovation" (ISBN 978 90 5668 199) is available in electronic format from theauthor ( A summary is available on A picture is available on

SOURCE De Vet Management

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