Stop the Social Business Madness at your Workplace
I recently re-watched one of my favorite TED talks titled “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain. Susan’s claim that today’s workplaces are becoming overly social and teamwork-oriented hit home for me, and in this blog post, I will build on her ideas and explain why pushing to make our workplaces too social can negatively impact our company and its performance. If you haven’t watched this inspiring talk by Susan Cain, do yourself a favor and spend 20 minutes watching it before reading this blog post:
Today’s workplaces are designed for extroverts with lots of social stimulation, open workplaces, and constant striving for teamwork and collaboration. Furthermore, the whole emergence of social business tools (our company’s product, 7Geese, being one of them ) is making the workplace even more stimulating, especially for introverts who feel most alive in environments with lower social stimulation. This is problematic not only for introverts, who about half of our workforce, but also for the whole company, as autonomy and solitude is the key to creativity, motivation, and productivity. While humans are innately social creatures and interact with each other for almost every one of our needs (food, shelter, sex, learning, fun, work..), focusing too much on becoming social has three main negative effects that you should be aware of:
- Limiting Creativity
Solitude is the key to creativity. This is not a new concept and most important breakthroughs and revelations in human history, whether in science, philosophy, business, or religion, have come from people spending time thinking by themselves. Examples of people who made discoveries in solitude are Darwin, Newton, Einstein, Steve Wozniak, and other leaders who took long walks or went to the wilderness. If you don’t create an environment where people can work in solitude, their best ideas will remain untapped and their creativity will be limited.
- De-motivating People
As Daniel Pink claims in his book titled Drive, mastery, autonomy, and purpose are what really motivates people to perform their best. If the work place is too group-oriented, people do not have a chance to be autonomous and master a set of skills by themselves, thus losing their intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, in group environments, it’s usually the person with the most social influence who shines and not always the people with the best ideas. This may frustrate and de-motivate people who are not as socially dominant as that one individual who always dominates conversations and social interactions.
- Neglecting the Hidden Powers of Introverts
Introverts feel most alive when they are in low-key and less socially stimulating environments. If workplaces are too social and group-oriented, they can’t tap into their powers and shine. Furthermore, work environments that are too social favor extroverts more than introverts for leadership positions. This may be damaging to your company as recent research by Adam Grant at Wharton School of business shows that introverted leaders often produce better outcomes than extroverted leaders. This is because they allow their employees to work autonomously and come up with ideas without exerting too much of their own opinions onto others.
Focusing too much on making your business social is damaging to your company; however, this doesn’t mean that group work, collaboration, and social business tools are not important. In fact, solving today’s complex business problems requires groups of people coming together to exchange ideas and collaborating on solutions. In order to create the most stimulating and effective work environment, you have to enable people to come together as groups, and also, work in solitude at times to generate ideas that they can later share with the coworkers. The key is balancing group work with individual work. Sometimes employees need to get into the zone and require privacy and at other times they need to socialize and exchange with other coworkers. If you are a company leader, your job is to make sure these conditions can coexist and not favor social over quiet, or extroversion over introversion.
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