In my November 10, 2014, post, called “The Power of Introverts,” I shared the epiphany I had after listening to Susan Cain’s landmark (at least to me) TED Talk.
Well, it’s almost five years later, and I continue to observe and read about innovative new workspace, collaboration, and brainstorming ideas. Something I’ve noticed, though, is that almost all of them totally ignore introverts. This stuff is written by very successful business executives and consultants, who get paid a lot of money, so it’s a bit disappointing to me to see this group completely overlooked.
Maybe I get it more because I’m an ambivert who leans slightly toward extrovert. Maybe because I can understand both personality types, I feel the pain of the introverts. As a result, I want to share two very practical suggestions:
Office Space. I know the latest rage is open-landscape office designs and, while this may be great for extroverts, I’d suggest that before you make a change to your office setup, you select a few of your high-performing introverts and meet with them privately. Let them know ahead of time, in writing, that you want their candid input on office design, specifically as it relates to privacy. Maybe list some possible solutions and ask them to add any ideas they have to your list. You can also encourage them to bring their list of suggestions to you one-on-one.
Brainstorming Meetings. Next time you conduct a brainstorming meeting, instead of sending a brief note stating the topic, send a more detailed write-up of the goal of the meeting and explain, in detail, what will occur during the session. Encourage the recipients to spend some (company) time thinking about the subject and recording their ideas. This will give the introverts a chance to think about the subject and write down their thoughts, rather than being put on the spot in the meeting. When the team arrives, collect the sheets and record the ideas on the white board. The super extroverts may not hand in a list, but they’ll be pleased to share their ideas as the session proceeds.
Following the session, send out another communication, this time summarizing the meeting. Again, ask the team members — especially the introverts — whether they have any additional thoughts they’d like to share after spending the day together and having a few days to think about the conversation.
Basically half the population consists of extroverts and the other half are introverts, with a few token ambiverts thrown into the mix. If you want to get creative, innovative ideas from your introverts — who definitely have some great ideas — then converse with them in their own language, so to speak.
I apologize for being so direct, but I hear so much about the need for new ideas and I sincerely believe this is a way to double them at no extra cost.