Leveraging the introverted in brainstorming

Introverts and Extroverts are differently social, according to a recent Huffington Post article. When it comes to being creative and generating ideas, introverts prefer to go it quietly alone while extroverts prefer a stimulating group brainstorming session.

As an introvert I am quite happy generating ideas on my own. A lot of my work hours are period of solitary ideas generation, and thinking through problems.

As a “practiced” and fluent extrovert (people who don’t know me well often do not believe that I am an introvert), I can also generate ideas effectively in a group situation – both as a participant or a facilitator. Group brainstorming sessions tend to favour extroverts as it requires lots of social interaction, speaking out or debating in public.

In any given project, I tend to incorporate both types of ideas-generation to maximise the outcome. An extroverted group brainstorming session is a naturally flow on from the already-social requirements gathering and problem definition phase. Once I have an understanding of the problem, the requirements of the client, and a bucketful of ideas from group brainstorming session, I then move to the personal brainstorming phase to generate even more ideas and distil more clarity.

This approach has consistently worked well and allows me to tap into both the introverted and extroverted idea generation modes.

When facilitating, I would expect introverts to be the quieter ones in the group. They tend to listen and cogitate internally more than “think out loud.” I make sure to explicitly seek their input, so that they don’t get drowned out by the extroverts in the room. Where possible I also try and do one-on-one and/or email discussions with these individuals outside of the group situation.

Perhaps a more formal way to better engage introverts could be summarised as follows.

  • Understand that introversion is not anti-social or shyness.
  • Involve introverts in the problem definition/understanding phase. They may not say much but they do appreciate the background information as much as anyone else.
  • Encourage note-taking. Introverts do quietly get ideas in their head and writing these down will stop them getting lost.
  • Do invite them to the group brainstorming session.
  • Encourage introverts to come to do some personal brainstorming before they come to the group session. They may or may not be completely comfortable discussing their ideas in public, that’s ok. Ask for am email or some other documentation of their ideas.
  • During the group session, do ask introverts for their input. But don’t push. Invite them to write down their thoughts and share those with you later in person or via email.
  • At the end of the group session, summarise the findings and wrap them up in the big picture view. Then send this summary to everyone. Introverts can use this as a launch point to generate further ideas after the session.
  • Solicit feedback and additional thoughts from introverts (ok, everyone!) via email or in person after the session. This can often reveal starting insights.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What has been your experience in solitary/group ideas generation?

Read this article: The Power Of Introverts: A Manifesto For Quiet Brilliance.

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