Susan Cain: The power of introverts

Watch a presentation by Susan Cain talking about the power of introverts.

Susan Cain starts her speech by the story how she went to a summer camp with a suitcase packed with books, expecting that this is what she will be doing there, similarly to what she used to do at home, with her family. It turned out that summer camps are all about teamwork, being extrovert and outgoing. She points out that 1/3 to 1/2 of the population is introvert, we need to let introverts do what they best do instead of pushing them to change.

Introversion – which shouldn’t be confused with shyness – is about how you respond to stimulation and how you prefer quieter, more low-key environment. As Susan Cain says, to maximize our talents, we need to put ourselves “in the zone of stimulation that is right for us”.

Majority of institutions, both schools and workplaces, are designed for extroverts, which is connected with their need for a lot of stimulation, teachers believe that ideal student is extrovert. The same happens at work – introverts are often ignored when it comes to leadership, despite the fact that they are more careful and less likely to take unreasonable risks. In fact, research done by Adam Grant from Wharton School shows that introvert leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts do. Susan Cain brings up some examples of introvert leaders in the history, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. 

Even though there is no such thing as pure introvert or pure extrovert, each of us can be placed somewhere on this scale. In contemporary world we need better balance between these two types of personality. Cooperation is extremely important, but we shouldn’t forget about power of solitude – Susan Cain illustrates this thesis with example of Steve Wozniak, introvert who invented first Apple computer and then started cooperating with Steve Jobs to create Apple company.

There is strong cultural background for support for extrovert personality: Western societies, especially the US, “have always favored the man of action over the man of contemplation”. We should realize that the person speaking the loudest in a group is not necessarily the person with the best ideas.

Teamwork is necessary, but the more freedom we give to introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with their own unique solutions to various problems, says Susan Cain. 

She finishes her presentation with advice of three courses of action to take:

1. Stop the madness for constant groupwork

2. Go to the wilderness (not necessarilly literally, it just means getting inside our heads more often than we do)

3. Think what is in your suitcase (reference to the story from the beginning about the suitcase filled with books) and why these things are there.

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Simon Sinek gives a speech about the importance of belief and leadership in success. There is a pattern of how communication goes, Simon Sinek calls it the Golden Circle. It is why, how and what? Basically all the companies know what they do, some of them know also how they do it, but very few companies know why they do what they do. As Simon Sinek points out, the answer is not a financial profit, money is just a result, not a cause.

Majority of companies communicate from outside, they tell us what product they offer. Great companies communicate from inside, starting with explaining why they do what they do, through how, arriving at what – product serves as a proof of what they believe. People don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek supports his thesis with the examples of Apple, brothers Wright and Martin Luther King – all of them believed in what they did and this is what they sold. Martin Luther King told people what he believed, people who believed the same thing made it their own case and convinced others, this is how his ideas spread and this is why crowds of people came to listen to his speech.

Simon Sinek mentiones also law of difussion of innovations which explains why and at what rate innovation spreads. Martin Luther King can serve as an example of success, the company TiVo provides an example of failure – despite having money, good product and good market conditions, the company wasn’t successful. Why? Because they communicated their innovation in a wrong way, starting with what instead of why.

Leaders are those who hold authority or power, those who lead are the ones that inspire us – Simon Sinek says at the end of his presentation. They are also a key to success.

New Research: The Skills That Make an Entrepreneur

By Bill J. Bonnstetter

Entrepreneurial-minded people (and the ideas they generate) are extremely valuable to an organization. At our research firm, we recently conducted a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs and identified five personal skills that clearly make them unique. “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills” — develop slowly over time, and we used them to help identify what job-related activities a person has developed. We primarily looked at people who started multiple businesses and experienced both success and failure.

After assessing the subjects on their personal skills and comparing their performance against a control group, we found a certain set of skills were the most predictive of an entrepreneurial mindset. In fact, by examining these five distinct personal skills alone, we were able to predict with over 90 percent accuracy people who would become serial entrepreneurs.

The quality serial entrepreneurs displayed above others was persuasion, or the ability to convince others to change the way they think, believe or behave. Persuasion for this study was defined as the ability to persuade others to join the mission. In the study, this was uncovered by ranking on a scale of 1 to 6 prompts such as: “I have been recognized for my ability to get others to say yes,” or “I have a reputation for delivering powerful presentations.” Unquestionably entrepreneurs need to excel at persuasion, whether to recruit a team or get buy-in from investors and stakeholders.

Perhaps not surprisingly, leadership is also one of the five areas where entrepreneurs excelled. In this study, good leaders were defined as having a compelling vision for the future, i.e., surveyors who highly ranked prompts such as: “In the past, people have taken risks to support my vision, mission or goals,” or “I have been criticized for being too competitive.” Serial entrepreneurs ranked both of these prompts highly. For people with an entrepreneurial mind-set, their strength of vision is usually tied to a product or service that provides solutions to challenges, even when the general public is not aware the challenge exists.

Entrepreneurial-minded people also display personal accountability. We defined personal accountability as demonstrating initiative, self-confidence, resiliency and a willingness to take responsibility for personal actions. Subjects with strong personal accountability highly ranked prompts such as: “I have been recognized for achieving results when others could not,” or “I have been criticized for holding people accountable for their actions.” As evidenced by these prompts, people who are personally accountable look at obstacles as a part of the process and, rather than give up, they are energized by them. From this we can gather, individuals who blame others for their failures display a significant lack of personal accountability and will most likely stall in any entrepreneurial effort.

Goal orientation is another critical skill for entrepreneurial-minded people. In the study, goal orientation was defined as energetically focusing efforts on meeting a goal, mission, or objective (which closely paired with leadership, as it is described above). More entrepreneurs generally agreed with the statements: “I am known for overcoming significant obstacles to reach goals,” or “I am most productive when working closely with others to achieve goals.” As mentioned above, it’s important that entrepreneurs have a strong sense of what their goal is, because their product or service depends on it. Identifying and advocating for the goal allows them to influence others and gain their support.

The final identifying skill is a mastery of interpersonal skills, the glue that holds the other four skills together. They include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. In the study, people who excelled here agreed with: “My ability to get along with people has been a key to my greatest accomplishments,” or “I am known for my ability to calm people who are emotionally upset.” Without interpersonal skills, an entrepreneur would be limited to relating only to those who share their exact communication style, thus restricting her ability to convey her vision and goals.

In contrast to ephemeral notions that entrepreneurial success comes as a result of perfect timing meeting brilliant ideas in a cosmic moment of alignment, this research indicates entrepreneurially successful people are successful for a reason — that many of them highly display certain personal skills. And while this research identifies these skills, it should be pointed out these five attributes are not inherent. They can be learned and developed, especially early in life, and further honed throughout an entrepreneur’s career.