Category Archives: workspaces

Introverts and ideas

“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas” – this quote from Susan Cain in her recent TED talk stuck in my mind.

So much of the way we do things at work is designed for extroverts to thrive – bosses are expected to be dominant and out spoken, we are expected to be ‘team players’, we work in noisy, busy open-plan offices. Where does this leave people who need some solitude, some time for reflection in order to their best work?

As someone who Susan Cain would probably describe as an ‘ambivert’ (my learning styles are also equally activist and reflector), I can understand the benefits of both an extroverted and introverted way of being. It’s just that the extroverts’ way of being will naturally be more dominant as extroverts are more dominant. However, as the TED talk suggests, I think it’s worth actively promoting the positive things about the introverted way of being.

For example, Cain suggests that introverts make good bosses. This was based on the work of Adam Grant at Wharton School ‘Analysing effective leaders: why extroverts are not always the most successful bosses’  His article suggests that the best boss for a very proactive team is actually an introverted boss. This is because an extroverted boss may feel threatened by proactive staff, whereas an introverted boss is more likely to listen and support their team’s ideas.

Just as introverted bosses can help encourage ideas, introverts are also better equipped to come up with ideas themselves. The TED talk alludes to Darwin going for long walks alone and Steve Wozniak working alone on the first Apple computer – examples which emphasise the need for solitude in the creative process.

Overall this TED talk made me think about my facilitation work and whether I am fully enabling the more introverted participants to develop their ideas. Am I doing too many group activities? Could I build in some solitude?

What about your work? If you consider yourself introverted, are you able to express yourself properly? If you manage a team, do you consider the needs of the more introverted members?

Does your workspace support idea generation?

I walked into the first floor space and there was the smell of cakes baking, lots of light, clusters of people talking…and a greenhouse in the middle!

This was The Hub Westminster – a space designed for sharing ideas and collaborating – where I went for a meeting last week.

It’s non-linear – so encouraging a more organic approach to idea development. It’s open and transparent (see the greenhouse meeting room!) – so encouraging meeting new people and sharing. It has cakes – I’m not sure how this relates to idea development, perhaps as sustenance for inspiration?!

This Hub is just one of many around the world, underlining the growing realisation of the importance of collaboration.

There are many other great and cool examples of aspirational workspaces which aim to foster creativity and idea generation – have a look here for a useful list. My favourite from this list is the conference bike! What better way to discuss ideas than by getting some exercise and fresh air together!

The examples from the list are inspirational, but remember – it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to create a workspace for ideas. Just having somewhere informal for people to sit and meet; scattering tools for collecting/developing ideas around the space such as whiteboards, paper and pens or maybe even LEGO. This could be enough to support more idea generation within your organisation.