The extraordinary talents of introverts
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Susan Cain

Unlocking a quieter creativity

By Oliver Friedman
Editorial team, TED

Do you ever just need some time to yourself? A couple quiet hours to recharge and collect your thoughts? I often feel this way -- and then experience guilt for wanting a night in when there's a big world out there to explore.

That is, I used to feel guilty, until I watched Susan Cain's outstanding TED Talk. With humor and a whole lot of research, she explains what it means to be an introvert (and, by proxy, an extrovert):

"Extroverts really crave large amounts of [social] stimulation, whereas introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they're in quieter, more low-key environments."

Our world is wired for extroverts -- just think about the open floor plan at your office or the pods of desks facing each other in your typical classroom. Why? The reasons for this extrovert-bias lie deep in a modern cultural belief that "all creativity and all productivity comes from a very oddly gregarious place," Cain says.

But that's simply not true. Some of the best leaders and most creative people are introverted, like Rosa Parks, Charles Darwin, Dr. Seuss, the list goes on. And we're not alone: a third to half of the population identify as introverts, Cain says.

This doesn't mean we should all stop collaborating. But we need a better balance between these two energies, especially when it comes to creativity and productivity. So take an hour to generate some ideas on your own from time to time, then report back to the group. This kind of solitude might just unlock some unexpectedly creative problem-solving -- and let the introverts on your team do what they do best.

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