Social Collaboration vs. Quiet Contemplation

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Roughly 20-30% of the population is acknowledged introverts and it’s no secret that IT has its fair share. One of the more famous is Steve Wozniak who dreamt up the first Apple computer in solitude. It’s highly unlikely that this quantum leap of imagination that changed the world would have bubbled to the surface in a boisterous brainstorming session. That’s because introverts like Wozniak excel in low-key environments and crave quiet to create, as Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” noted recently in her TED talk.

Cain’s reminder that introverts respond to stimulation differently than extroverts couldn’t come at a better time. Social collaboration is catching on like wildfire across companies and sectors. Businesses are literally and figuratively tearing down walls between employees, partners and customers to openly communicate and constantly innovate. In short, a lot of brainstorming is happening in offices and on social networks.

In the midst of this collaboration celebration don’t forget that a portion of your workers need quiet contemplation to draw forth their most inspired ideas. If you don’t take this in account, you aren’t fully harnessing the power of all your people. Even worse, a noisy work environment could push talented introverts right out the door.

Integrating Introverts into Highly Collaborative Work Cultures

One way to maximize the potential of your introverts in a highly collaborative work environment is to offer them the opportunity to write down their ideas ahead of brainstorming sessions and have them read their ideas to the group. This ensures that they will be heard after they’ve had time to think quietly about the challenge or opportunity on the table. Introverts aren’t shy. Their style is to jump into conversations after first mulling things over in their minds.

If you’re looking to transition your office to an open floor plan with lots of glass—an increasingly popular trend these days—design with the introvert in mind. Include pockets of secluded space where she can freely explore her inner landscape in quiet.

Introversion is not about being reserved or shying away from making judgments. Rather than pulling their inspiration from others, introverts simply tend to tap their inner power to make their contributions to the world. Give them space to dream in solitude and reap the rewards.

Have you made adjustments in your workforce for introverts? Do you think it’s important? I’d like to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comment box.

Image shared by Robert Scoble

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  • The
    term introversion can get overused.  Just because someone is quiet or soft-spoken
    does not mean s/he is not taking inputs from all kinds of sources.  I
    suspect Wozniak would admit that he had years of inputs and experiences that
    helped him devise Apple’s first computers.  Pre-social-collaboration,
    “introverts” would attend meetings.  They may not speak up, but
    you bet they were listening and absorbing inputs that would affect whatever
    output they may eventually communicate or create.  Social collaboration
    provides benefits for introverts in multiple ways including access (at their own
    volition) to more transparent input sources/streams and additional means to
    “speak up” when they want.

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