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Reflections on the Power of Introverts

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As designers we get to be a part of initiatives for many great companies, and it has always been my hope that we can take critical lessons for ourselves from these projects. Like many companies that grow at a rapid pace, management challenges change as you grow from 50 to 100 to 150 employees and beyond. We need to continually evaluate our approaches to our own human capital. To this day, I am proud to attribute our attentiveness to employee onboarding, building a millennial workforce and a deep appreciation for brand to customer projects that taught us key lessons.

Without getting too personal, I’ve recently realized that my direct, extroverted general demeanor, influenced by growing up in NYC and my service in the Air Force, has made me ill prepared for a rapidly growing Allen. This realization came from our work with Susan Cain and Ken Cain. For the past several months, AllenComm has been partnering with the Cains on the Quiet Revolution—a very timely project for many of us as parents, coworkers and managers. You many have already heard about this new project, as it has been reported on by the Wall Street Journal, Fortune magazine and Business Insider.

If you have Susan Cain’s book or watched her popular TED Talk, you might realize we are in a world designed for extroverts. Yet she rightly points out that some of our greatest leaders, scientist and artists are introverts. Personally, I admit to ignorance on this issue until very recently. Looking back I can see where my late afternoon walks stopping by peoples’ cubicles can be disruptive for some, as are my lightning fast meetings focused on immediate issues and concerns. We should be worried about mistakes we may make in meetings or brainstorming that silence or choke out contributions from people that need time to reflect before reacting.

It may come as no surprise that creative agencies like AllenComm count on people who dig deep to find innovation and creativity for our clients. Ever since we moved into our new building, it has amazed me to see how many of our employees use our small conference rooms or find a quiet corner to sit and work. Working with the Cains and their team, we see an amazing opportunity to unlock even more creativity and cohesion in our rapidly growing company.

The following are some tips I would like to share based on the work we are doing with the Quiet Leadership Institute:

  • Find ways to incorporate more one-on-one meetings. Team meetings done wrong can stifle creativity.
  • We all love to chit-chat or collaborate, but need to minimize its disruption for those who prefer less noise and activity.
  • Consider creating informal “quiet spaces” for your team members. At Allen we have decided to cancel a large creative space design and turn it into four or five quiet areas for individuals.
  • And most importantly, give people time to reflect and react. A person’s silence is not a sign of bewilderment or lack of understanding. Wait for it! You will get the great idea or answer you were looking for.

We love our clients here at Allen, and learn so much from them. I would love to hear what you have learned from your clients!

Thank you Ken, Paul, Susan, Tony and a host of others for letting us give of our creativity and enabling my learning about the hidden potential of introverts.

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