Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, discussed during today’s Summit lunch session how our society is not making the most of introverts’ hearts and minds.

She highlighted some of the differences between extroverts and introverts. Introverts feel most alive and energized when they’re in environments with less “stuff” coming out of them (noise, light, etc.), while extroverts are exactly the opposite. She noted, however, that we don’t set up our world in a way where introverts can thrive. Our world is set up for mass amount of stimulation.

When psychologists investigate the lives and minds of creative people, they almost always find serious streaks of introvert tendencies. We’re a society that, when gathered together in groups, is highly conformist. She suggested that before holding meetings, ask that participants spend time brainstorming the questions and issues at hand as individuals before they come to the meeting.

Leadership is too often attributed to the boldest and most charismatic people. While these qualities are valuable traits, they’re not everything. Extroverts have a more top-down style, and they do succeed at inspiring, but it has been found that introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extroverts, Cain said. 

But, most importantly, she put out a call to action for a world where we value both introverts and extroverts equally. Management research suggests the most effective teams have a mix of extroverts and introverts. Pairings of this nature are often seen in effectively run organizations.

Check out her book for examples of introvert leaders (Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Eleanor Roosevelt to name a few) and check out her TEDTalk, which Bill Gates recently cited as one of his all-time favorites.