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A few weeks ago at the Indiana SHRM conference Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, opened the conference by calling for the collaboration between introverts and extroverts – that diversity of personality styles, in addition to more traditional ideas of diversity, is crucial for innovative organizations.

In Cain’s book, she describes the “extrovert ideal” that after the business boom in the early 1900’s, gregarious, social, and quick-thinking personality traits are prized at work.  Citing “extrovert training” materials such as Toastmasters clubs, and self-help books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, the message that being extroverted is crucial to success comes through loud and clear.

But, as Cain finds, the power of introverts comes in many forms: creativity and innovation after periods of deep thinking, an ability to maintain focus and problem-solve, and also a likeliness to try and minimize risk – all critical functions necessary to achieve success.  How can we ensure our organizations are “introvert inclusive” and support our introverts’ needs?

In Cain’s widely watched TED talk she describes several calls to action – 1 being for workplaces to quit with all the group work.  Introverts needs work environments that provide solitude, autonomy, and self-direction to do their best work.  Does your organization have a blend of workspaces that allow for group tasks as well as individual projects?  An open workspace might be desirable for an extrovert, but an introvert needs privacy and less social stimulation for optimal performance.

During meetings, Cain suggests that introverts need to try to speak up early and help define the ideas for the group rather than waiting until later when people might not be as open to new suggestions.  Leaders of meetings should send out agendas prior to a meeting to allow introverts to think and prepare beforehand. Encourage participation from everyone.

With up to 50% of the population tending towards introversion, it’s a mistake to minimize how we can contribute.  And an inclusivity of introvert characteristics does not detract from the necessity of extroverted characteristics – an effective partnership between the two styles should become our new ideal.

Does your organization have diversity of personality styles?  Is it inclusive and celebratory of both introverts and extroverts?

Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt is a former member of the Purple Ink team. She has a special interest in career coaching and recruiting and finds joy when she can connect the right person to the right opportunity.

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