It is March 2012 and I am in London listening to Susan Cain, who is a phenomenon in the world of current ideas. How influential is she? Well, in the one second it has taken you to read that sentence approximately thirty-two people have viewed her standout talk at TED. And a further 451 have viewed it on YouTube – in the last hour. Her book ‘Quiet’ – ‘The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking’ – sits in the New York Times Top Five – and her piece in the New York Times attracted an astonishing 241 comments alone.
For someone who advocates the world of solitude, quiet and introversion – Susan Cain is big news and creating a lot of noise. At her recent talk at The RSA – she demonstrated why. She has a sparked a fascinating debate around her premise that the world needs more introversion – and less extroversion. More thinking – less talking. We need to spend more time in the chill out room – and less in the noisy bar. It’s proven a simple but wildly popular idea that attracts debate from all sides. In a slight paradox, whilst she promotes an introverted renaissance, she presents as a witty, cool, articulate and confident New York lawyer. Which is no surprise, as that is what she was. Not exactly the shy introvert. Or is that because she has just ‘pretended to be an extrovert’ – as she tells it.
The audience at The RSA loved her championing of the thoughtful, the reflective, the introvert. And why not? After all – surely the best ideas are always those of the quiet person at the back of the room. Right? And in our modern noisy cluttered world – what good can conversation do? And as for those dreadful team meetings – surely that’s a problem of extroverts. Right? Or is it, as is often the case, when you look at things a little deeper – and have a quiet moment to think about, is it a bit more complicated?
In her book, articles and within her website – Cain proposes in her Manifesto that we need more introversion, on the basis that thinking alone is smarter and more effective. “There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.” Maybe she has a point. But she goes on to propose that the best ideas come from solitude and isolation. “Our culture rightly admires risk-takers, but we need our “heed-takers” more than ever.” – and; “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.” As somebody who advocates collaborations, alliances and partnerships – and whilst I love her style and the debate – I am never going to agree...
Add a Comment