Susan Cain, Quiet | The HBS Blog | Business Strategies

By Christina Cornelius Monday, February 3, 2014

Recently, I read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. The book is worth reading, however, if you can’t read the book, here is what you need to know:

Cain argues that American culture and beyond is biased towards extroversion and that it's to our detriment. The book questions the trend toward organizing our workplaces and schools for those who thrive in environments of heightened stimulation and asks that we correct what she believes is a cultural bias towards the gregarious.

Here are some relevant insights from the book:

-       Introverted leaders have special talents.

-       Because introverts are more likely to implement employee suggestions, they excel at leading employees who take initiative.

-       Introverts excel at innovation and creativity, as both are born in solitude.

-       Introverts do not reach their potential in trendy, open plan offices.

-       Introverted entrepreneurs pair well with an extroverted counterpart.

-       Introverts excel at scanning situations for risk and we should listen to their advice more often, even if they are not the most outspoken in the room.

-       Since extroverts are highly sensitive to rewards, we should value introverted colleagues’ assessment of risk, especially when rewards are particularly high.

-       Introverts excel at complex problem solving, as studies show introverts to be more persistent than extroverts.

-       Passion allows introverts to excel at things associated with extroversion, like public speaking.

-       Research shows that teamwork does not always yield better results than allowing individuals to make progress in solitude.

-       Group brainstorming sessions yield poor results. When employees generate ideas individually, ideas are more original.

-       There is no correlation between being extroverted, charismatic, or talkative and being a good decision maker.

As well, if you are interested in Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins, Steve Wozniak, and Warren Buffet, or the culture of Harvard Business School, it is worth picking up a copy of the book and reading Cain’s take on each.

Susan Cain is a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School. Even hard-core academics say the book is well researched. I think the book is timely and her message spot on: We should be designing our institutions so that both introverts and extroverts can thrive and we should be listening to the best ideas, not the loudest.


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