While enjoying a relaxing, Sunday meander around the online news I came across a compelling presentation from TED by Susan Cain. Ms. Cain is the author of the new book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” Having been working on a new approach for sparking creativity in business, we’ve been knee deep into the neuroscience exploring creativity and how it emerges. While creativity is non-linear in its very nature, there is a creative process, phases of divergent thinking and convergent focus that are common themes in the literature. A critical element for cultivating creativity in the workplace is inclusion. Ms. Cain makes a remarkable case for this in her presentation and even more thoughtfully so in her book.
We’ve are very fortunate to be collaborating with a brilliant professional from the diversity and inclusion training industry. During our conversations, she went into great detail about our own hidden biases that marginalize inclusion. Enculturated behaviors and perspectives that we’re often unaware of ourselves. This is central to our professional development process; coaching and educating a reflective journey towards authenticity and away from conditioned behaviors and attitudes. Enabling professionals to navigate mindfully through society’s and organizations’ turbulent and noisy emotional landscape. Authentic self-awareness illuminates our blind spots where our biases have taken root. Acknowledging the bias is the first step in alleviating it. Until I discovered Ms. Cain’s perspective, we had focused, for the most part, on cultural biases.
Ms. Cain’s work reveals an entirely other area of bias; one that favors extroverts and marginalizes introverts, much to the demise of organizational creativity and the benefits that emerge from reflective thought. She makes a remarkable case for why this has happened in our culture, pointing to the rise of industrialization drawing strangers together, competing to prove their self worth and value in new working environments. Susan points back to the 19th Century, and notes that leadership that was admired during that time was leadership of character (i.e. Abraham Lincoln). With the rise of industrialism, we began to celebrate the personality above the character, and extroverts have engaging personalities. Illustrating her point, Ms. Cain writes in her book about her attending a Tony Roberts seminar and makes some insightful observations on just how far this obsession with salesmanship as leadership has gone.
Susan also speaks about the need for a more balanced approach for embracing the creative thinking of people that tend more towards introversion in the workplace. The need to not force collaboration as the only approach to working towards innovative solutions. From my perspective, she’s not just speaking about holding the space for those that work best on their own, she’s illustrating the importance of being socially aware and respectful towards the needs of those we are charged to lead. This is a fundamental perspective of transformational leaders.
For anyone that is interested in fostering creativity and inclusion in the workplace, I highly recommend Ms. Cain’s book.
© 2012, Terry Murray.