Susan Cain, consultant and author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking,” spoke at Fast Company’s Innovation Uncensored today.She talked about a huge oversight nearly every company out there is making: They’re neglecting introverts.
“We all need to figure out ways to tap into the talents of the quiet geniuses in our company, alongside the more outspoken geniuses,” said Cain. “All it takes is thinking a little differently about what it means to be quiet.”
Here are three mistakes that most people and companies are making right now, she says:
1) They’re not making the most of introverts’ talents
Introverts work better when it’s quiet, and extroverts when it’s loud. The best-case scenario is for everyone to be able to choose the office atmosphere they would prefer, instead of a one-size-fits-all workspace.
“Introverts don’t get the solitude they crave,” said Cain, and that reduces their productivity and ability to be creative. To fix this, you have to set up offices more mindfully.
“The ideal office will have lots of space where people can come together and chat casually,” said Cain. “But we also need way more privacy, way more autonomy and way more solitude than we do today.”
2) Too much time is spent in meetings
Many of the most creative people have streaks of introversion. They generate ideas in solitude. It would waste their time to be mired in endless meetings.
“It turns out you cannot physically be in a group of people without starting to instinctively mimic their opinions,” said Cain. “And you won’t even know you’re doing it.”
When a person tries to take a stand in a meeting, they can experience severe discomfort. It’s called the “pain of independence,” which can be an extremely inhibiting emotion. So it’s important to frequently take some time to go off and “remove yourself from the distortion of your dynamics.”
Cain encouraged companies to “think hybrid” when it comes to creativity. “The creative process should begin with a kind of solo approach, after you’ve had your solitude then you can come into groups,” she said.
3) They believe the best talkers have the best ideas
We’re primed to look at things in this way, but it the fact is, it’s just not the truth, said Cain.
There’s “zero correlation” between being a loud, assertive person and having the best ideas. If you’re one of those people, great, but you have no more of a chance of having a good idea than anyone else in the room.
So how do we balance the quiet and outspoken people?
“That is the challenge,” said Cain. “Take a really good hard look at who you’re promoting and hiring, and ask yourself, are you promoting the best talkers — or the best visionaries?”
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