Innovation for Introverts

About a third of us are introverts. What are our characteristics? We have a tendency to be drained by social encounters and energized by solitary activities. We enjoy reflecting on our own thoughts and feelings, and we often prefer to avoid busy social situations.

Try this Guardian quiz for a quick insight into where you stand on the introvert-extrovert scale.

I am an introvert with some extrovert tendencies. Time and time again in work-related feedback sessions I am complimented on my ability to engage and negotiate in a 1:1, 2:1 or even 3:1 scenario yet encouraged to be more confident when operating within a larger team. That manifests itself most at busy conferences and events, so I LOVED this graphic depiction by Acumen Fund‘s  Sasha Dichter (@sashadichter) on how an introvert can reduce their fear of networking. I plan to test it out at the next event I attend (so anyone who spots me at a conference looking a little strange, I am doing some mental analysis of my options. Blame Sasha):

Working the Room

To explain the graphic, your options are:

1. Walk over to folks who you know a little bit

2. Walk over to someone you know pretty well

3. Walk over to a close colleague or friend

4. Go get some food and likely strike up a conversation with someone on line

5. Walk up to a group of total strangers and introduce yourself

6. Hide in a corner (aka “stare at iPhone”).

But how does being an introvert impact a person’s ability to innovate?

I liked by this HBR blog by Francesca Gino, which offers some practical guidance to understanding yourself better and therefore improving your ability to bring forth and share creative ideas:

1. Reflect on your creative moments and seek out an environment that triggers them. By reflecting on your most creative moments, you may come to realize you have more of an introverted or extroverted style and, moreover, that context plays a significant role in your creativity. You may realize you tend to be the most creative while working in silence by yourself or that your innovative ideas are commonly the results of group brainstorming sessions. Understanding which environments are more conducive to creative sparks will help you make sure you are exploiting your full creative potential.

2. Recognize the pros and cons of your own personality. An introverted personality brings benefits: During a brainstorming session, you are likely to be one of the best listeners in the group, thus enabling you to thoroughly evaluate the quality of the ideas being suggested. At the same time, you may need an extra push to put forth your own good ideas. You may not be ready to think innovatively on your feet, but you can certainly generate innovative ideas when you are on your own. Use this to your advantage. You can prepare for brainstorming sessions in advance, so that you can become ready to suggest your ideas at the right moment.

3. Try to adapt your personality to the context. We can’t always choose whom we work with. If you are in a group that tends to be very quiet and where members seem to be as introverted as you are, you might try to adapt to a more extroverted style: You can be the one asking questions, shaping the creativity process so that others feel comfortable taking risks and offering their ideas. Adapting to a more extroverted style may also help you talk about your own innovative ideas more openly in such a group setting.


2 thoughts on “Innovation for Introverts

  1. I have been attending a training and can confidently say I have always found myself going through 1 to 4 in the graphic most of the time. Once in a while, (1 in 10 encounters) I try No. 5. In stead of hiding in a corner (6), I’d rather go to my room & watch TV… or stare at my phone there…

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