After reading this article, it reminded me a lot of the concepts I highlighted in “Quiet” as well as “The Innovators“. I’ve been in many meetings where the value of thinking before speaking is quickly overlooked. This becomes a problem on both sides of the problem when a supervisor asks a question and demands an immediate answer and the one being asked the question feels they must answer immediately. Of course there are some situations that require such immediacy, but there are other times when allowing those we demand answers from are given time to compose their thoughts and answer fully without fear of retribution. I also like that the title of this article is “The Quiet Ones you Should Watch” instead of “watch out for”. Introverts are a valuable source of insight and thought. By not fearing them and giving them space to work, they quickly become valuable and priceless members to any team.
Steve Wozniak arguably has one of the most creative and innovative brains in the history of technology.
“Woz” played a huge part in the way we view the place of technology in our lives. In his book iWoz, the Apple co-founder talks about his inventions and his creative process.
On creativity, he writes:
I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take.
That advice is: Work alone. Not on a committee. Not on a team.
Wait… What? Can that be right?
Business is a fast-paced, noisy environment where things change in a heartbeat. It needs teams of quick thinkers, and people who can act impulsively to make sure every opportunity is seized.
But is that the whole story?
Making Friends And Influencing People
Persuasive and dynamic people get things done. Am I right?
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a leader needs to be an outgoing person, with the gift of the gab. This is true at all levels of an organization.
This view has come to characterize and dominate western management thought. Even the way we educate future leaders through MBA courses is tuned to people whose preference is for group-work and making verbal contributions.
Conversely, those who prefer to work things through in their own time—considering ideas before speaking—are marginalized and excluded. Whether or not that’s intentional is debatable.
A preference for working in groups and thinking aloud are typical of extroverted personalities. Trying to train an introvert to be more extroverted—or vice versa—is like trying to get a cat to be more like a dog.
Even if you can get Kitty to shake a paw, she’ll still prefer to prowl the neighborhood alone at night. By the same token, Fido may keep away intruders but he won’t deal with your mouse problem.
Introverts And Decision-Making
But what does all this mean for your business?
Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, be they extrovert or introvert. However, the prevailing culture in Western business is to overlook the introverts, because they don’t shout as loud.
Leadership style is culturally driven. Westerners have come to prize gregarious and decisive leaders, while Asian cultures value quiet strength and considered decisions.
As with most things, there’s a balance to be struck. In business, moving too quickly or not moving at all are equally dangerous. Getting your considered thinkers and your decisive actors together can make for a powerful mix.
In a corporate environment—where quick thinking and speedy decisions are highly prized—introverts risk being accused of undue hesitation.
But the more considered move can be the better one. Preventing your introverts from taking time to weigh things up could deprive your business of strong leadership—not to mention balance.
Introverts Help Group Creativity
Creativity is widely seen as a free-for-all, in which people throw ideas out thick and fast to see what sticks.
However, this is something that would probably seem alien to some of the most creative minds of the past few generations. Just ask Steve Wozniak.
Naturally, this isn’t the full picture. Most people will tell you that their greatest, most creative breakthroughs came when they discussed their ideas with others. Batting ideas around is productive. But it’s in the process of developing those ideas that solo work can be better.
It’s in group discussions where extroverts come into their own. They don’t mean to dominate, but sometimes their external focus means they find it hard to take a back seat to those with knowledge or expertise. That risks losing a winning idea in a tide of noise.
Introverts, on the other hand, are more likely to listen. By weighing up all the options and considering their contribution, they add a great deal to the group’s creativity. And, by allowing extroverts to take their ideas and run with them, introverts get the voice that can really sell their creations.
Getting The Balance Right
You can’t get on in leadership if you don’t communicate well with other people. However, the widely held view of introverts as a band of hermit-like misanthropes is untrue.
Many introverts enjoy spending time with others, but they often find it saps their energy—whereas extroverts can find being alone more draining.
The tech world has seen its share of introvert successes. Bill Gates, Woz and others have shown that introversion and business are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Sometimes a Woz needs a Steve Jobs to form a dream team for success. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a charismatic and outgoing front-man for an oppressed community striving for change. This struggle was encapsulated by the actions of Rosa Parks—a strong, quietly determined woman who was prepared to stand her ground but had no desire to stand up in front of hundreds of thousands of people.
Parks’ actions inspired hundreds of thousands, but never would have come to light were it not for King and his extroverted oratory. History is filled with quiet men and women who stand just out of the limelight, alongside a partner with the desire and ability to present a public face.
Introverts make extroverts stop and think. Extroverts take that message to the people.
It takes the best of both strengths to bring powerful results.
The Bottom Line
Business is about balance. It’s about ensuring the contribution of everyone with something to give is maximized.
Introverts are as important to your business as extroverts. And partnerships are better than lone ventures—for everyone involved.