Every Company Wants to be More Innovative
We’d all like to invent a breakthrough product like Post-it® Notes or the Apple® iPhone®. Many companies have created “innovation teams” and embarked on training programs to teach creativity and innovative thinking.
But what if we are approaching this from the wrong direction? Why not find creative, innovative people and put them in the environment that most likely fosters innovative thinking? Are there people who by their very existence are more innovative than others? Yes! Many psychologists will tell you that people with a more introverted nature are your innovators. Studies have shown that putting an introvert to work on a complex or abstract problem often results in creative, innovative, and elegant solutions.
Are you surprised? Over the last 50 years we have been told that creativity and innovation are best accomplished through group collaboration. Brainstorming has been held up as the ultimate technique for generating new ideas. But many studies have shown that group problem solving and idea generation are inferior to individual work. Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking highlights many of these studies and explains the current neuroscience findings on the brains of introverted individuals.
Introversion and extroversion are personality characteristics that represent a spectrum of preferences and behaviors. People who are more extroverted work best with stimulation, noise, activity, other people, etc. People who are more introverted work best in quiet environments with minimal interruption. Introverts can be very creative when given a problem and allowed to work on it alone. It turns out that remote collaboration is effective, as in the case of open source software, when each individual is able to work alone, in a quiet space, without distraction for extended periods.
As a manager or business owner, you could benefit by identifying people who are naturally introverted and providing them the opportunity to work in a low-stimulation environment. Open office space, small cubicles, and team rooms do not facilitate creativity and innovation for introverts. Allow your employees to design their work spaces and schedules in a manner that best fits their style. Introverts do enjoy talking with others about complex problems but also need time on their own to formulate solutions, work out problems, and develop new ideas. You may already have many innovative employees who just need the right environment to spur their output!
Apple and iPhone are registered trademarks of Apple Inc.
Post-it is a registered trademark of 3M.
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