Ever 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:
- “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.
- 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.”