The Power of Introverts

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Posted by: stak
Tags: mozilla, books
Posted on: 2013-02-10 19:18:55

I recently finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain, recommended to me by my girlfriend. We're both introverts and, as a result, often have to deal with some friction in the extrovert-centric society we live in. I've mostly made my peace with this, and to be honest, didn't think the book would be particularly useful. However, I underestimated the amount of insight and value that comes from thinking about and researching a topic for many years, as Susan Cain has done here. The book is most definitely a worthwhile read.

The book goes into some depth about research that has been done about the biological and psychological differences between introverts and extroverts. According to the book, somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of humans are introverts (although of course introversion is more of a gradient than a sharp distinction), and so the chances are good that you deal with both kinds of people on a regular basis. Dealing with them effectively, and in particular harnessing their productivity (e.g. at work) requires understanding what makes them tick and what turns them off. The book covers this really well and has plenty of advice for both introverts and extroverts.

The proportion of introversion is higher in disciplines like software engineering just because the nature of the task involves long periods of focus and concentration and some degree of "living inside your head". Speaking from personal experience, I know that many of the Mozillians I interact with daily are introverted to a significant degree, although of course there are many who are not as well.

Culturally, Mozilla provides a lot of freedom for contributors to shape their own environment and work in the way that suits them best. However, there are still times when an extroverted streak comes into play. Work weeks, for example, are usually a source of many extrovert-centric activities. The book has some useful advice on strategies for introverts to make the most of, and recover from, such situations.

Susan Cain also discusses some of the larger effects of western society's bias towards extroversion. For example, schools are increasingly designed to reward extroversion at the expense of the introverted schoolchildren who have just as much (or more) potential and talent. I found the discussion of that topic to also be pretty interesting and I suspect it might be one of the reasons that online learning solutions like the Khan Academy are becoming so popular.

Overall it's a pretty good book and I would it recommend it to anybody.

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