The Power of Introverts, the Power of Quiet

Susan Cain’s new book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” argues that introverted people who value quiet and solitude to be creative are as able as extroverts to be transformative leaders.

“‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron” is one of 16 points on author Susan Cain's manifesto about the power of introverts.

“Research strongly suggests that people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

So wrote Susan Cain in a New York Times opinion piece earlier this month. Her first book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Crown Publishers, 2012), was released last week.

In the Times essay, Cain argues that “the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist.” Csikszentmihalyi is a professor of psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University and Feist is an associate professor of psychology at San Jose State University.

Cain, a corporate lawyer turned author, rues the lack of quiet in our lives and the toll it can take on our productivity and innovation:

The New Groupthink has overtaken our workplaces, our schools and our religious institutions. Anyone who has ever needed noise-canceling headphones in her own office or marked an online calendar with a fake meeting in order to escape yet another real one knows what I’m talking about. Virtually all American workers now spend time on teams and some 70 percent inhabit open-plan offices, in which no one has “a room of one’s own.”

The big safety net for introverts in the workplace? Group interactions that occur digitally. “The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work,” Cain writes. “This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a ‘miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,’ and that's what the Internet is, too. It's a place where we can be alone together -- and this is precisely what gives it power.”

Cain notes in Quiet’s video book trailer that introverts are leaders as well as innovators. “Einstein, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Van Gogh — all these people were transformative leaders and all of them were introverts who accomplished what they did because of their quiet temperaments, not in spite of them.”

Cain’s website, thepowerofintroverts.com, includes a forum for conversations on topics including work and parenting, a Quiet Quiz to determine if you’re an introvert or an extrovert and Cain’s 16-point “manifesto,” which includes the statements “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation” and “‘Quiet leadership’ is not an oxymoron.”

3 Comments On: The Power of Introverts, the Power of Quiet

  • d.moses | February 2, 2012

    As a veteran in the office furniture business in Canada and business owner at http://www.ugoburo.ca, I cannot agree more with Cain’s point of view on the negative impacts “modern” workspaces design and strategies have had over the last 20 years on creativity and innovation.

    In an asthonishing number of industries, enterprises clearly stopped creating value through innovation a long time ago -with a few exceptions obviously-. It appears to me that most are mainly searching for ways to reduce operation and manufacturing costs even at the expense of losing their core expertise. This says a lot about our manager’s poor capabilities to foresee the future of their business.

    As for what relates to my field of expertise, it is time for enterprises to start looking at and counting hidden costs associated to this “open space for all” approach. This is not the way to go for all. It may be good for communication and socialisation but it is killing our creativity and the essence of our future growth.

  • Creativity Finds Its Genesis Alone | Geoff Livingston's Blog | July 16, 2012

    […] study from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist shows that the most creative minds are introverted, they need quiet and alone time to […]

  • » BYOD Workplace Training — Bridging Gaps Between Solitude and Groupthink » Anywhere Pad » board portal for board meetings on iPad, Android, and iPhone | December 26, 2013

    […] office furniture business professional D. Moses begins by addressing the negative impacts of modern workplace strategies and space design. Writing through the resources of the MIT Sloan Management Review page, Mr. Moses […]

Add a comment