When Susan Cain was nine years old, her mother packed a suitcase full of books and sent her off to summer camp where she was promptly encouraged to put them away and push herself to become more ‘social’, and less ‘introverted’. It was the first of countless times throughout her childhood that she would receive the message that extroversion was not just the opposite of introversion, but was, in fact, a preferred, more valued, and idealized counterpart. In this TED Talk, Susan argues that there is a huge loss to creativity and leadership that comes with an over focus on extroversion in organizations, and that when introverts are passed over for promotions because of their reserved nature, companies may be missing out on some of their most careful, thoughtful, and creative leaders.
As a culture, it seems hard for us accept that opposing behaviours can and do exist without requiring opposing labels of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’. It’s time for organizations to start valuing the balance; to stop labelling introversion as a negative, while placing hyper-sociability (which comes with its own limitations and drawbacks to efficiency and productivity) on a pedestal. Action is not always the ideal over contemplation. Nor is collaboration always the ideal over autonomy. Solitude is often a very crucial ingredient to creativity, and the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with their own creative solutions to problems, and lead organizations or teams in their own unique and valuable way.