New York Times best-selling author Susan Cain has a new line of office furniture or, to be more precise, office spaces – designed specifically for introverts.
Haven’t heard of Susan Cain? Perhaps that’s because you’re an extrovert.
Susan Cain is a hero of introverts and even ambiverts like me. Her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking is a fascinating cultural, biological and anthropological study of how we became a nation geared toward extroversion. It’s also a call to action to honor a kind of diversity we rarely consider – the most basic aspect of our personality type.
She has, I hope, started a quiet revolution.
U.S. businesses spend from $200 million to $300 million a year on diversity training, according to the Washington Post, but these programs focus primarily on ethnic and gender diversity. It’s common at major corporations, universities and even high schools to have affinity groups for various ethnicities and other unique experiences.
Could workplace affinity groups dedicated to introverts one day become common? Hmmm. Perhaps that’s an extroverted perspective. The introverts may just want to stay in their offices and go home right after work. But Georgia Tech has one.
I know from my experience coaching executives that many introverts share a common frustration with the challenges of being recognized as a leader. They don’t naturally gravitate toward networking events where everyone hangs out at the bar and tries to chat up the senior execs. But this is no reflection on their leadership abilities.
Don’t confuse introverted with shy. Introverts are considered the ideal leaders for environments that are highly creative, for example. They’re more likely to let their talented staff shine, something important in high-performance, brain-centric environments.
“Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron. This from the Quiet Revolution website, which aims to empower introverts to draw on their natural strengths. http://www.quietrev.com/
It was an introvert who:
- brought down the British Empire (Gandhi),
- freed the slaves (Abraham Lincoln) and
- helped pioneer great social change (Eleanor Roosevelt).
Who would want to squander that kind of potential?
You may groan at the idea that introverts need special office spaces, but you would do well to consider this aspect of diversity among your staff. Otherwise, you may be underutilizing as much as one-third to one-half of your human resources. I can’t imagine a business that can afford to do that.