Without great solitude no serious work is possible.
– Pablo Picasso
Posts tagged ‘Susan Cain’
Silence is lyrical. Silence is energy. Silence is time: The space of time between the pulling back of the arrow in the bow and its release.
Teams are fun. Meetings and parties are energy. People are motion: The speeding motion between the arrow’s release and the explosive arrival at the target.
Not long ago in a hiring discussion, I overheard someone proclaim, “Of course the person we hire needs to be an extrovert.” I cringed. On the Myers-Briggs introvert – extrovert scale, I fall slightly toward the introvert side. Surprised? You’ll find me leading organization processes, delivering training, and speaking publicly.
The confusion arises from a misunderstanding of the scale. In the original Myers-Briggs’ definition, the introvert and extrovert get their energy from different places. Extroverts are energized by the outer world of people and action. Introverts gain energy from an inner world of ideas and concepts. The scale has nothing to do with whether people get along with others, are confident public speakers, or provide good leadership.
The fact that different types of experiences energize people is not a sound hiring metric. Opportunities and challenges exist across the extrovert – introvert scale. For example, research with groups at the University of California, Santa Cruz demonstrated that while extroverts talked more in the groups, they had a wide-range of topics and were “light-hearted.” The introverts talked less and focused on one or two serious topics. The extroverts appreciated feeling understood by having someone actively listening. The introverts appreciated the relaxed ease of the conversation (Quiet, p. 238-239).
Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking describes the value of extroverts and introverts in organizations. She offers ideas about using the strengths of both sides of the scale to build organizational effectiveness. Wherever you fall on the introvert – extrovert scale, one key is tuning into the energy of those around you. Adjust your communication patterns to meet them in their comfort zone and invite them into the conversation.
How does your organization work to embrace the strengths of extroverts and introverts? What does your preference on the scale mean in your life?
Susan Cain’s blog: The Power of Introverts
Susan Cain’s book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
Related link forwarded to me by a friend: The Introverted Leader
Note: I followed Cain’s choice to use the word extrovert from the common usage, rather than the word extravert which is found in the research literature (Quiet, p. 271).
I am guilty of contributing to the rise of what Susan Cain calls the New Groupthink. I have clients do exercises in “table groups.” I conduct brainstorming sessions. I observe companies creating tiny, open “collaborative” workspaces. They build on the concept with flexible workspaces – the kind where the employee gets a rolling cart and choses a new space each day.
Are these suddenly outdated? No. Research shows that people are happy in a workplace where they have friends, a trusting atmosphere, and a free exchange of ideas. But, research supports the other side of the equation too: the need for personal space to work in quiet and solitude.
Privacy and uninterrupted time allow for learning and creating new ideas. The freedom of space and time allows our brains to quiet and focus on the one task at hand. IPNB tells us that autonomy motivates and stimulates creative thinking. Cain quotes organizational psychologist, Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.” Companies who offer employees private space benefit from increased quality and quantity of work.
The counterintuitive evidence in the research is that people who collaborate remotely outperform other teams. While more research is needed, the hypothesis is that the electronic distance allows us to be “together alone.”
There is a balance: a need for interaction and idea exchange – and – a need for privacy and uninterrupted time to think. I’m considering how I structure my engagements, classroom, and work time.
What ideas does this stir for you?
(Note: Blogs fit into the “together alone” category!)