Solitude matters–Go off into the wilderness and have profound epiphanies

One third to a half of all people fall on the Introversion scale – and one of them is Susan Cain. In this brave–and wonderful speech to TED ‘The power of Introverts‘ she talks of how the educational system and society systematically undermined her true nature and how she reflexively sought extravert goals in order to ‘prove’ her value.

She describes how both introverts and extraverts are most effective and creative when in their own ‘zones of stimulation’ but says that introverts are subject to this deep and real bias from an early age and  – and describes how schools and workplaces are designed for extraverts.

She argues that this is not only a loss to the individual – but a loss to the world, and that we must try and find a better balance. She says it’s particularly important for creativity and cites examples of celebrated problem solvers and creative minds–Darwin, Steve Wozniak and Dr. Suess–the latter who was even found it difficult to spend time with the children reading his books.

She says there is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas and urges us to push away from the ‘madness of constant group work’ and be freed from the distortion of group dynamics.

All this reminds me of the great number of books and people out there encouraging us to ‘group think’ all of our problems away. Indeed I have a book in which I can come up with games for differing numbers of people to solve just about any business problem.

It’s important to say that she does not disregard group think – and from my experience a well facilitated session can actually allow the voices of introverts to be heard – whereas a standard meeting would hear those voices fall silent.

Instead she calls for a re-balancing of our values and cites the transcendant power of solitude in solving problems.

I think these is definitely a risk that we as a web community are putting too much focus on the group think and not enough on power of individual thinking.