Teamwork: Introverts vs. Extroverts

  • 3 mins read

I’ve been writing about teams and brainstorming, and reviewing all the research that shows that individual work is actually more creative than group brainstorming.
The one exception to effective brainstorming is when it is done online. When properly managed, groups that brainstorm online perform better than individuals – and the larger the group, the better it performs. The same holds true for academic research: Professors who collaborate electronically tend to produce more influential research.
What we fail to realize is that participating in an online working group is a form of solitude unto itself. Nevertheless, brainstorming continues to be a popular method within organizations and with teams.
Participants in brainstorming sessions usually believe their group performed much better than it actually did. Brainstorming makes people feel attached, but social glue is far different from genuine creativity.
Introverts vs. Extroverts
In the work I do leadership coaching, I see big differences in work styles depending on whether one is an introvert or an extrovert. One’s attraction to working in social groups may be culturally influenced.
In the U.S., for example, companies tend to idealize charismatic extroverts. (Think celebrities and media-savvy CEOs.) Because extroverts usually talk the most (and often the loudest), their ideas are heard and often implemented.
Psychologists agree that introverts and extroverts work differently. Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly. They make fast and sometimes rash decisions. They are comfortable with multitasking and risk-taking.
Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They prefer to focus on one task at a time, and they dislike interruptions and noisy environments that interfere with concentration.
Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening and are comfortable with conflict, but not with solitude.
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy some parties and business meetings, but after a while they wish they were at home with a good book. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak and often express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict.
To learn more about the important differences in introverts and extroverts working in teams, I recommend Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
Leaders must understand each team member’s strengths and temperament. The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts.

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