Read and Learn: Quiet

Quiet book coverEver since I saw a TED talk by Susan Cain earlier this year, I’ve been on the local library’s waiting list for her new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It was worth the wait. The whole book is worth a read — for your own sake, or for the sake of the many introverts in your life. But here’s a few notes that apply in a work setting:

  1. “Introverts typically prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.” The Groupthink environment that came into fashion in the ’90s (think teams, open work spaces, small group learning in schools) provides non-stop stimulation. Introverts often work best when given room for “Deliberate Practice,” Anders Ericsson’s phrase for identifying “tasks or knowledge that are just out of your reach, [striving] to upgrade your performance,[ monitoring] your progress, and [revising] accordingly.” Ericsson says this process works best when an individual can focus on the exact piece of the process that is most challenging to him or her, not what’s challenging to a team or group as a whole.
  2. Introverted leaders can be very effective leaders when working with proactive employees. “Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions,” says Cain. “Having benefited from the talents of their followers, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive.”

2 thoughts on “Read and Learn: Quiet”

  1. I read Quiet earlier this year and agree with much of what Cain says. And as someone who is more introverted than extroverted (according to my Myers-Briggs type), I also agree with the two points you mention in this post. But I didn’t agree with everything Cain had to say about introversion, especially in terms of the notion that introverts may be more sensitive than extroverts. I think some of the personality characteristics she attributes to introversion may have more to do with the Myers-Briggs dynamic of feeler-thinker. (Then again, I’m a thinker and may be over-analyzing this.)

    The groupthink issue is huge in our culture, and I’m glad Cain is taking it on. In our office, we have an interesting mix of introverts and extroverts, and of course like a lot of multi-tasking marketing/PR/communications offices in higher ed these days, we are stronger than the sum of our parts. I welcome the exchange and interplay of ideas among introverts, extroverts, thinkers, feelers, sensers, intuitives, etc.

    Also, I posted something about Cain’s book on my blog back in January (after reading a New York Times article based on that “groupthink” chapter; the article came out about a monthy before her book was released). Here’s the link to my post:

    1. As a fellow “T” on the Myers-Briggs, I agree with your assessment about the way Cain tied together sensitivity and introversion. I can follow her reasoning, but I’m just not sure it applies to all introverts. Also, thanks for linking back to your excellent post about this book!

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