The subject of the introversion came up again recently in the New York Times, this time through a lens of “GroupThink”.
The general model of introversion/extroversion represents something that is very real in humans (at least in modern cultures). One of the most nuanced descriptions I’ve come across is in Psychological Type (1998) by Lenore Thompson.
Thompson explains that being an extrovert or introvert is not just a set of behaviours: introverts can be gregarious, extroverts can be quiet. It’s about where you take your energy from, and a direction of orientation. Extroverts are orientated and aligned with the exterior world, while introverts with the interior subjective world of the “self”.
Thus, extroverts conform more to the external world, are fueled by it, and have can have a difficult time relating to their inner world as it may seem chaotic or disturbing. Introverts conform to their inner world, draw power from it, and have to find ways to bridge that world with the external world — which can sometimes seem, yes, chaotic and disturbing!
For instance, in high school, a highly intelligent extrovert may “dumb themselves down” to fit in the prevailing culture, while still being highly active in it. An introvert may try to make themselves invisible and disengage as much as possible — to “fit out” of a culture they cannot relate to.
America, in general, is a very extroverted culture. There are strong pressures to conform to the external, despite the population being extremely rich in variety, history and temperament.
Introverts tend to plan and think internally, preferring to present conclusions after they have examined and honed their position. They may not even express the depth of their understanding and insight if they do not think the external person will be interested. Some extroverts may feel that too much reflection and thought is unnecessary — that it’s slowing things down, that these are just details which can be sorted out later, or that the introvert is even being recalcitrant by not getting “on page” with this fantastic new idea. (They may also think, they never come to those Friday happy hours either, whats their problem?)
If there is a lack of external interaction, the extrovert will create it with jokes, stories, conversations, ideas, or meetings, but often start to dominate the social space as a result of this natural urge. If there is a lack of time and space for internal reflection, the introvert will hide in the basement, work from home, and withdraw.
Online systems like WorkSimple help you “harness the power of introverts.” It’s common knowledge and experience that introverts can be much more consistently expressive when communicating in writing, in their own time and space. In some fields, such as software programming, the vast majority of workers are introverts — connecting them with, and allowing them to define, the external sphere is vital.
You may have inadvertently found that a few voices are dominating the discourse in your company, and that there is already a sort of “Groupthink”. With introverts struggling to express themselves, and therefore focusing entirely on daily work results, rather than the vital social areas of cultural and strategic definition — this is almost unavoidable!
With tools like WorkSimple, which allow discussion and insight around the definition of real world goals and focuses, you can literally start to harness the tremendous depth of the “quieter” part of your workforce. Your extroverts will be happier as well, because there will be much better integration and alignment in the external sphere between your entire employee base — thus extroverts will feel more energized and engaged, not less!
This is not about competing groups or “psychological sports teams” where someone “loses”, but about connecting the rich, subtle, deep internal world to the external world for your entire company.
Are you an introvert or extrovert? How has it shaped your career and experiences so far?