Susan Cain believes society overvalues the gregariousness of extroverts and dramatically undervalues the talents of introverts. In her bestselling book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, and in her record-smashing TED talk (2012), Cain explores ways to tap-in to the quieter contingent–in the workplace, the classroom, and elsewhere–whose input we cannot afford to waste. Cain spoke again at TED2014 last week, announcing plans to introduce a series of programs and tools to make the world a quieter and happier place for everyone. The TED Blog caught up with Cain to learn more about the details:
Quiet havens in the workplace
“Open offices are a tremendous problem for introverts and extroverts alike. People can’t focus, they can’t concentrate,” says Cain. “There’s a need for more privacy in the office.”
To address this need, she is launching a partnership with office design company Steelcase to create readily available quiet spaces in offices for introverts to find respite. The partnership was borne at TED two years ago, right after she gave her talk. There, she met Jim Keane, the CEO of Steelcase, who’d wanted to address the erosion of privacy in office plans for years before he heard Cain’s talk.
Together, Cain and Steelcase are developing a series of designs for open offices chock-full of spaces for introverts and extroverts alike to use as much as they want throughout the workday. The first prototypes will roll out in June, when the team shares them at the NeoCon design conference.
The Quiet Revolution has a website in the works that will serve as a global hub for all things quiet. The site will eventually host a web-based TV series with profiles and interviews of famous introverts, highlighting how introversion shaped the way they contribute to the world. The site will roll out as the movement gathers momentum.
This program, headed by West Point professor Mike Irwin, will center on identifying and strengthening the leadership style of introverts. Though Irwin is himself an extrovert – he talks a mile a minute, according to Cain — he observed during his time in combat that introverts make great leaders if they can identify their strengths. The training will consist of online and in-person workshops and resources, and will offer classes for both introverts and extroverted leaders who want to learn how to guide introverts to the height of their potential.
This program developed in part from Cain’s own experience preparing for her first TED Talk back in 2012. “As an introvert, I’m terrified of public speaking,” she said. “I overcame it by looking for role models of speakers who speak in a low-key introverted way. So when I saw speakers like Malcolm Gladwell, it made me aware that there was a tried and true way of being an introvert and being powerful.” The leadership training will offer examples of powerful quiet leadership, and will draw on the latest research on managerial styles.
Supporting quiet children
“This is the area that is closest of all to my heart,” said Cain. “I’ve seen first hand in the wake of my TED Talk that there’s such an enormous need for parents and teachers to better understand how to love and cultivate the introverted kid.”
Like the Quiet Leadership program, this program is in its infancy, but will eventually provide tools for teachers and parents to support quiet children as they grow into themselves. Cain is in the process of identifying partner schools across the country that will collaborate in developing the training program. Another combo of online and in-person training sessions.