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Quiet: a vital but unrecognized business resource.

"Quiet" is a little understood business resource that apparently plays a more profound and active part in the lives and decisions of most of North America's top executives than is currently recognized.

This is a key finding in a study commissioned by the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company on the subject of quiet and its importance to the nation's business leaders. Northwestern Mutual Life is known as The Quiet Company. - Upon releasing the study, Northwestern Mutual Life's president, Donald Schuenke, said, "A better understanding of the value of quiet may well help us improve national productivity.'

Chief executives interviewed for the study described quiet as: A very special way to come to terms with change,- and,

Quiet focuses the mind with laser-like intensity and distills the essence of an issue.- One noted that, "Only with quiet can the insoluble be solved,- while another said, -It provides a sense of confidence that all things have been considered and that you have made the right decision. - Although the study was limited to 20 chief executives from some of the largest organizations in North America, the results strongly suggest that the use and appreciation of quiet may be high on many top executives' agendas, notes Schuenke.

As one executive put it, "The people who don't get (quiet time), I think, will pay a price sooner or later." Reported another, -1 think the most important benefit of quiet time is the ability to concentrate on strategy and vision in major decisions, because these are the things I simply cannot do on a piecemeal basis. You must have quiet to concentrate on what it is you are doing." Absence of Information on Quiet, Study Notes

Although executives identified quiet as a necessary, often powerful resource, Schuenke points out that no commission has investigated its virtues, that there are few, if any, scientific or academic books on the subject and that "Quiet" is not found in the curriculum of any business school. We commissioned this study because we were surprised to find out how little knowledge exists on a topic we believe is important to management."

"Until now, what corporate leaders think about quiet has been an unknown," said Schuenke. -But from this study it appears that quiet can be a powerful instrument for change. Uninterrupted quiet time for intense concentration is a scarce commodity in a large organization, the North-western Mutual Life study notes, adding that for most of the executives interviewed, the relevance of quiet is that it provides an essential, liberating sanctuary from which they can view their world with clarity and precision."

Quiet Is Not Simply Absence of Noise

"Quiet" proved to be an elusive term to define, according to the report. The most common definition touched upon by the Northwestern Mutual Life interviewees involves focus and time rather than merely freedom from noise. As one executive pointed out, judgment comes only when you are focused, and you have concentrated and prioritized. And you can do that only through a mental process that requires time and quiet."

Where and when do corporate leaders find time to apply the advantages of quiet? According to the study the answer is anywhere and almost any time. Commuting, travel, early morning and night hours, even daydreaming while glancing at a television screen or staring out of a window provide time to "play the whole thing out in your mind," as one ex ecutive put it.

Executives in this study seemingly have the ability to ignore distractions and fall into contemplative moods almost at will. If quiet comes unexpectedly, it is welcomed as a friend. Says Schuenke, The study suggests that an impressive case may be made that the mature, disciplined, successful executive puts the productive use of quiet hi any list of essential attainments." Copies of -The Power of Quiet" pilot study can be obtained by sending a check for $5.95 made out to Northwestern Mutual Life and mailed to John Caspari at Northwestern Mutual Life's home office, 720 East Wisconsin Avenue, Milwaukee, WI 52302.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Canadian Institute of Management
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Canadian Manager
Date:Sep 22, 1989
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