January 27, 2012

"The Secret Power Of Introverts."

Jenna Goudreau, writing in Forbes:
In the last few decades, this “Extrovert Ideal” has transformed workplaces, says [Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking]. Independent, autonomous work that favored employee privacy was eroded and practically replaced by what she calls “The New Groupthink,” which “elevates teamwork above all else.” Children now learn in groups. Ideas are formed in brainstorming sessions. Talkers are considered smarter. Employees are hired for “people skills,” and offices are designed to be open and interactive.

Yet, according to Cain, it’s only worked to damage innovation and productivity. Research shows that charismatic leaders earn bigger paychecks but do not have better corporate performance; that brainstorming results in lower quality ideas and the more vocally assertive extroverts are the most likely to be heard; that the amount of space allotted to each employee shrunk 60% since the 1970s; and that open office plans are associated with reduced concentration and productivity, impaired memory, higher turnover and increased illness.

... “Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women living in a man’s world,” says Cain. “Our most important institutions are designed for extroverts. We have a waste of talent.”
A good reason to stay out of institutions, if you ask me.

22 comments:

AlphaLiberal said...

Lot to like in that piece. Adding that many bosses and leaders today are undermined by their own massive egos. Leadership and bosses in most institutions in America today are abysmally bad -- and there is little to no accountability.

Brainstorming can work well - if done well. It needs to include respect for all brain and personality types out there, making sure all can contribute ideas, not just the loudest or rudest.

Nonapod said...

Same as it ever was, squeaky wheels get the grease.

I'm always amazed at how certain people can dominate a conversation by talking over people, ignoring others, and all the while saying absolutely nothing of value. It's one of the reasons I enjoy internet forums as a venue of communication. You can always carefully read every reply and every argument, and pick out quotes to dissect and specifically respond to. Of course noisy extroverts still try to dominate the discourse with wall of text filibusters and tons of responses, but they are much easier to ignore in text than in speech.

Jay said...

was eroded and practically replaced by what she calls “The New Groupthink,” which “elevates teamwork above all else.” Children now learn in groups. Ideas are formed in brainstorming sessions. Talkers are considered smarter.

These all represent the feminization of our culture.

edutcher said...

As an introvert, I resent being compared to women.

Now I think I'll go out and have a good cry.

rcommal said...

Telecommuting rocks!

LakeLevel said...

Not buying it. In meetings that involve brainstorming, I have found that after listening quietly, a few carefully chosen words, delivered at just the right moment, will redirect the conversation to how I want it to go. The group will quickly move past what the loudmouth had to say. This makes the process take a little longer than it ideally should but it aint a perfect world.

sleepless nights said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LakeLevel said...

On introspection, I will concede that those loudmouths end up taking credit for my brilliant ideas. They probaby even think they thought of it themselves.

Scott M said...

Brainstorming can work well - if done well. It needs to include respect for all brain and personality types out there, making sure all can contribute ideas, not just the loudest or rudest.

The way the OWS consensus actually worked in practice, and the extent that the Spokes council was able to maneuver the proceedings to their own aims, gives a stark, real-world example of what LakeLevel says here:

Not buying it. In meetings that involve brainstorming, I have found that after listening quietly, a few carefully chosen words, delivered at just the right moment, will redirect the conversation to how I want it to go.

In my experience, there are certainly extroverts and introverts, but I have never observed any correlation between those traits and whether a person is creative, driven to finish tasks to their completion, or detail oriented. Those last three things are all hallmarks of achievers.

EDH said...

I suspect my introversion is the main reason why I eschewed the path of large firm law practice.

Good piece, but may in some places succumb to the "myths" about introverts.

10 Myths About Introverts.

Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.

On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.

Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.

LordSomber said...

I've worked with production staff (fellow introverts) in conjunction with sales staff (extroverts). There is a delicate yin/yang balance in having both kinds of people and having it work. The real problems are still just bad management from above.

And brainstorming doesn't seem to work well in groups larger than say, three, in my experience.

Dan in Philly said...

I'm an introvert, but I learned extrovert behaviors to get things done. I assume a smart extrovert can learn introvert behaviors when needed. If you ask me "introvert" and "extrovert" are silly labels, since everyone I know who can actually do things adopt one behavior set or another as needed.

EMD said...

The best way to get great ideas is to get a bunch of people assembled in one place ...



... and go somewhere else.

Michael said...

Yes, because there has been no innovation in the last twenty years....

traditionalguy said...

Meyers-Briggs personality categories are at work here.

MB says that some people get energy from others. They are called extroverts and need some interactions with other people or they wither.

MB says that other people get energy from within themselves and are called introverts and they need some time to be alone with themselves or they wither.

There is more to it, but that is MB's basic insight.

Therefore a group party described by the article would wear an introvert out.

Introverts are often said to be slow learners, but once they learn the new subject/skill they are masters at it.

The extroverts seldom use cogitation time alone needed to master a subject/skill.

Jose_K said...

Famous introverts: Reagan and Nixon

hs said...

I'm a serious introvert who married a serious extrovert. Over the years we worked some things out: he would go to the only grocery store in town to do the shopping while I stayed home. His usual errand time was 30-45 minutes if he didn't talk with anyone. The days it took him 3+ hours to shop meant he met a whole lot of people he hadn't seen in a while and they had to visit. Those were good days and he came home with a big smile on his face and his batteries recharged.

I'm having to type in wv twice, before and after signing in to gmail, to post too.

EFB said...

This is very interesting and something I've been thinking myself having worked in corporate America for about 15 years now.

I'm introverted and still can not get used to the stress that lack of privacy ads to your worklife.

Brainstorming sessions are dominated by trying to make other's ideas sound bad.

Extroverts take all the credit, while it's the quiet thinkers who organize and do all the work.

The article is exactly right, allthe machinery is oiled to reward and prize outspoken narcissists.

I hope more corporate managers realize this and the tide starts to shift.

Also, I wouldn't go as far as calling corporattions institutions.

Holmes said...

Yeah, this article seems to blur the line between extrovert and narcissist.

Seeing Red said...

Somehow I'm linking this and the IQ article into a bigger picture.

Joe Schmoe said...

At the company I work for I've been schooled a lot in Myers-Briggs and other personality-trait identification methods. Intro/extro is just one piece of the puzzle, and there are 3 other major traits on the same level with intro/extro.

Just saying intro vs. extro is a huge disservice, in my training and more importantly my experience. It's not an on/off switch; it's not like you're either Regis Philbin or Ted Kazcynski. There are ranges from extreme introvert to extreme extrovert. Some people are right in the middle and display traits of each.

The tech field attracts tons of introverts, so shaking things up is necessary from time to time. Just letting people be for long periods of time has adverse effects.

There are advantages to both types; neither is superior to the other.

Joe said...

was eroded and practically replaced by what she calls “The New Groupthink,” which “elevates teamwork above all else.”

I disagree. True teamwork is a good skill that is rarely taught in school. What is taught is "groupthink" full stop. Having everyone agree is not teamwork.

I worked at two companies that were so bad at this, people were routinely disciplined for disagreeing with management in meetings. At one company, all projects took two weeks and if you ever said anything different, you were put on a lay off list. (In one instance, because of this nonsense, the company laid off the only person at the company that knew a particular technology.)