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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking

By Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (1st Edition) - Susan Cain

"Introverts UNITE! Separately, in your homes."

A book that strokes my ego, tells me it's okay to love my solitude, and assures me I'm full of awesome. (Sings song from The Lego Movie: "Everything is awesome; Everything is cool when you're NOT part of a team.") Works for me.

Nope. Teams aren't my thing. Yes, I can work with others toward a common, clearly defined goal. Many endeavors--building a skyscraper; putting on a play; team sports--require the cooperation of three or more people, operating as a unit.

Unfortunately, sometime in recent decades, some shit-for-brains MBA came up with the idea that solitary tasks like accounting, editing, or computer programming would also benefit from the team approach. It isn't enough just to show up, accurately balance the books, make small talk around the water cooler and then go home. Nope. Now, you need to be reminded that you are one of a team of hard-working ants and better yet, forced to attend team-building exercises where you learn to trust your fellow ants with your life, love and deepest secrets.

How this improves your ability to keep the company's financials in order or to write a complex sorting routine is never explained. Asking means you are not a team player.

In my decade or so in the workplace, I learned that being a "team player" meant being the unfortunate schmuck who picks up the ball and runs like hell after management has dropped it and is currently under the bleachers fucking the cheerleaders.

So, no, not a fan of the team approach to the average workplace.

In Quiet: the Power of Introverts in World That Can't Stop Talking, Susan Cain makes my point--teams are not for every task--but does it far more gently. The book's thesis is essentially that many functions, like accounting, etc., benefit from introverts' innate need to work alone, their attention to detail, and the creativity that springs from being in one's head. The push to team-ify everything has resulted in a loud, obnoxious world that stifles innovation and often results in costly mistakes.

I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork...for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding. ~Albert Einstein



The book then goes on to present the many instances where introverts not only developed the technology that runs our world, but the fallacy that extroverts excel in people-oriented tasks like sales. It also demonstrates the fail in the notion that brainstorming or work in a committee produces more and superior "ideas" than working alone.

One of the most useful chapters in the book concerns communication between introverts and extroverts. As an extreme introvert married to someone who is somewhere in the ambivert-extrovert range, the descriptions of argument styles of example couples really hit home. Definitely something to remember next time the shit hits the fan in Casa de Kirby.

Unfortunately, Cain puts most of the emphasis on communication between romantic partners and parent and child, when, IMO, what's really needed is a primer on communicating in the workplace.

Because, ultimately, the real problem with putting disparate people together and expecting them to work together without conflict, isn't our lack of trust in each other, or a required fuzzy-wuzzy sense of team-ish camaraderie, but instead communication. If people can communicated what they want and take the time to listen to each other, all this team building bullshit would be a moot point. Well, it already is.