When I was in school, in the comments section of every report card, the teacher always wrote that I needed to talk more and contribute to class discussions. I never really understood those comments because it made me think that I needed to change something about my self.

I had great ideas, I just felt as though I had to always share them. I preferred to work on my own. I liked individual sports rather than group sports. I guess I was an introvert. Turns out though, that’s not always seen as a good thing is often something that we’re often encouraged to overcome.

From an early age, we’re conditioned to believe that extroversion is part of the recipe for success. Schools and workplaces are set up for maximum collaboration and groupthink. As a result, opportunities for solitude, thinking on our own, and just being quiet are few and far between.

Susan Cain is an author and speaker who recently published a book called Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking. I haven’t read the book yet, but I watched her TED talk, The Power Of Introverts. In the talk, Susan addresses the idea that we need to do more to embrace introversion and adjust the way we learn and work so that we encourage more time and opportunity for solitude. She argues that some of the best innovators in history have been introverts. As our culture embraces and encourages extroversion, how will innovation be impacted?

Of course, there is a balance in all this. We do need a balance between solitude and collaboration. However, I do agree with Susan that introversion is seen as being less preferable than extroversion. In fact, our entire culture has shifted to one that’s certainly more catered to extroversion. We’re surrounded by constant stimulation. We’re addicted to reality television, self promotion, and we live in a world that has us digitally connected all the time. Where is the quiet?

I’m curious to explore the connection between solitude and innovation. Stay tuned …

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