March 22, 2012 in Book reviews

The power of introverts

Susan Cain has recently published ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ and she makes some really important points.

One of her important reminders is of just how different extroverts are from introverts, even if many people are categorised as ambiverts in being a bit of both. For those extroverts that don’t understand what it is like to be an introvert, Cain speaks of her own preferences: “I prefer listening to talking, reading to socializing … I like to think before I speak (softly).”

Cain reminds us that the ideal environment for an introvert to be successful is very different from the ideal environment for an extrovert, but argues that we’ve generally developed a one-size-fits-all environment that is actually better suited to extroverts. If you want examples of environments that bring out the best in extroverts whilst hampering introverts, just look at most team meetings!

Cain seems to be on a real mission to redress the balance and makes the point that “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas”. This is a great point as it is all too easy to be impressed by the best talker or the most charismatic person, when the person that needs to be listened to most might be the one who isn’t saying anything.

I really like Cain’s work and I would offer two reflections:

– We are all different as people, and the Extrovert-Introvert characteristic is a very visible one. In order to perform at our peak, we need to take responsibility for understanding ourselves and for creating an environment around us in which we can perform.

– For those who lead others, we need to remember that people are very different. Some of the key components of developing a high-performing team are to make sure the team plays to everybody’s strengths, that team members understand each other, and that the team has ways of working that allows team members to perform. Considering the needs of introverts as part of this is really important.

To find our more, I’d recommend reading the book, visiting Cain’s blog, and I’ve included two videos of her: One is her recent TED talk, and the other is a longer Leading@Google talk. Both are worth watching.

TED Talk: