TED's 31 days of Ideas - Day 30: The power of introverts

The power of introverts

By Adam Grant

When I watched Susan Cain's TED Talk on the power of introverts, I was stunned. She opened my eyes to the fact that introverts are responsible for so much of the creativity and generosity in the world, yet they're treated like second-class citizens in many of our homes, schools and workplaces. They're some of our greatest leaders, yet they're usually passed over in promotion and election decisions. And they're the people who remind us to make time in our lives for reflection, yet we don't reflect on their contributions often enough.

One of Susan's most profound points is that there's zero correlation between who's the best talker and who has the best ideas. She inspired me to work differently with leaders and students -- instead of having them pitch their own ideas, I now have them make a case for each others'. But even more than her words, her delivery has had a lasting impact on my life.

Just a few days before Susan gave her talk, I sat in a New York city apartment watching her practice. She spoke nervously from notecards. The audience thought the message was right on target and the stories and studies were beautifully chosen. But we encouraged her to rethink the conclusion -- we wanted a more moving call for action, for both introverts and extroverts. She delivered. She wrote a new capstone for the talk that was far better than what we envisioned: stop the madness for constant group work, go to the wilderness, and don't be afraid to share yourself with the world. In just a few days she had transformed -- she was the picture of poise, the personification of peacefulness. And as an introvert myself, watching her do it so masterfully gave me the confidence to get on stage and start giving talks of my own.