Rising Above Social Stigmas: Introverts and Extroverts

November 29, 2012

By: Rachel
Why do introverts, who make up one-third to half of the world's population, feel such pressure to be extroverts? Author, and self-described introvert, Susan Cain spent years researching the answer to this question and maintains the belief that introverts' personalities can offer much to the world, but need the opportunity and ideal setting to shine – one that's not present in our culture today.
Cain argues that the world is geared towards extroverted personalities, saying that “extroversion is an appealing personality style” but actually, there are steps to take to extract the value that make introverts such strong contributors. Introverts think through, process and attack problems differently than extroverts do. They typically take longer to analyze and think about the problem before solving it, whereas extroverts jump right in.
Business leaders are influential in encouraging a positive office culture. Here are some areas Cain suggests investigating to make your office environment conducive to both personality types:

  1. Brainstorming meetings: Allow time for individual brainstorms before a meeting for a group brainstorm by asking attendees to address action items prior to a meeting rather than providing an agenda at the meeting. You can also pause the meeting for individual brainstorming sessions before discussing as a group, or intermix electronic brainstorm sessions with in-person ones.
  2. Office space: Many modern offices tout an open floor plan, but this should be balanced with private spaces for small meetings or quiet workspaces. Aim for a transcendent mood throughout the office – this will encourage employees to continuously move upwards and onwards. Create spaces for casual, unplanned interactions. Steve Jobs influenced Pixar's office space which included a large atrium space in its design. He even asked for the only restrooms in the building to be located in the atrium to force casual meetings, which didn't happen, but he still succeeded in his goal of encouraging collaboration.
  3. Leadership: So-called natural leaders seem to be at the top of prospect hiring lists for C-level executive roles, but they may not be your best bet. Really, you want to look for “level five leaders” or someone who has a goal and destination in mind, and wants to find a way to take the company and employees there with them.

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