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Span the “Quiet” Bridge to Innovation


Sometimes group leaders shy away from quiet or dead space within a group activity.  Brainstorming is a perfect example.  During the first chunk of time; ideas are flowing, everyone speaks, the flip chart paper gets filled up.  Then there is a pause… it feels like the group has done its job, the idea well has run dry, the time has come to wrap up the brainstorm.


You may have reached, instead, the quiet bridge (or the bridge of quiet) between the typical/known/predictable ideas with true innovation.  As a group leader, have a plan in your back pocket to stick with the activity a bit longer and cross that bridge. Here are some ideas:

  1. Be ok with a bit of silence as people process – don’t end it now.
  2. Shake it up – change seats, use props to force new ideas
  3. Redirect the brainstorm to include some individual thinking time, have people write down MORE ideas and then return to the large group
  4. Take a stretch break – physical movement might “jog” some new ideas
  5. Call for an icebreaker or creative thinking break
  6. Use prompts that elicit more responses – “what else”, “keep ‘em coming”, “and?”
  7. Stay enthusiastic and maintain a positive level of energy as leader
  8. Shout out some of the ideas already said as a bit of a review
  9. Tape up the filled flip chart papers so that people can review what’s been contributed so far – they might need the visuals to make some innovative connections.
  10. Adapt the location to include some ambient noise (or move directly to a café). Studies suggest that moderate background noise is a better spur to innovative thinking than the sound of silence.

Next time – consider your role as group leader to help your group cross the bridge and discover creative thinking on the other side.

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