Are you aware of how you make decisions? From what to wear today to who to marry, we believe we make decisions rationally. We weigh up the options and come to a conclusion. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. I’m currently reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book ‘Blink’ about the part of our brain that makes snap decisions using intuition and feelings wrapped up in rationality. Sometimes it’s spot on, other times not.
One area where snap judgments may not be serving us well in business is the current cultural belief that charisma = brilliant. It may be that some charismatic people are brilliant, but I think we’re overlooking a big part of the population who are brilliant but not charismatic: the introverts. Again, not all introverts are brilliant. But we need to be aware of how this belief is becoming ingrained in our automatic thinking.
Susan Cain is a former Wall Street lawyer and author of the book ‘Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’. It examines how we’ve skewed attention and status on those who are extroverts – the big talkers, the showy ones – to the detriment of quieter types.
How did this happen?
“To some extent it’s in our cultural DNA,” Cain explained in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. “Western society is based on Greco-Roman ideals of the person that can speak well, a rhetorical ideal. We have always been to some extent a society that favors action over contemplation. But this really reached a pitch when we moved from an agricultural society into the world of big business. And that’s when it really became the case that to stand out and succeed in a company, with people that you had never met before, the quality of being very magnetic, very charismatic in a job interview suddenly became very important. This happened at the turn of the 20th century. And, it was some what coincidentally some what not, accompanied by the rise of the cinema and the idea of movie stars. And so movie stars became the ultimate guide on how to be magnetic and charismatic. So if you were a private person just facing the question of how do I appear at the job interview you go to the movie’s a Saturday afternoon and there is a movie star kind of showing you the way. So this became very deeply engrained.”
How does this manifest at work?
“I’d say it’s more so than ever before, we are currently living with a value system that I called the ‘New Groupthink’ which is the idea that creativity and productivity comes from chance encounters. You have an important conversation and suddenly it gives you an idea about how to do things differently. That’s all well and good, but we take that too far and we say therefore that everybody should be out and circulating and having these conversations all day long, and we leave very little place for deep thought and for focus and a work space where you can’t be interrupted. And that’s what’s were missing because solitude is equally a crucial ingredient of creativity. So we really need both, we need the solitude and the chance encounters.”
So, the next time you’re judging a colleague or prospect, override your snap judgment and consider whether they’re an introvert. Play to the strengths of both personality types for the best outcomes. And beware charisma.
Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/764088