Monday, January 20, 2014

The Value of Introverts

One of the few things the Disease Management Care Blog enjoys more than talking about itself is reading about itself.  That's one reason it's downloaded Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Aside from feeding us introverts' narcissism, Quiet is a worthwhile read.  It describes how Dale Carnegie helped undo the American culture of "character" in the first century, and paved the way to our second century culture of "personality." The DMCB admires confident showmanship as much as anybody, but the bad news is that there is little correlation between a leader's bravura and a leader's success.  In fact, it's the quiet and unassuming leaders who seem to have a better track record.

No wonder brainy competent experts like Tom Nichols are so upset that no one is prepared shut up and just take their word for it. As the 24-7 news cycle is coarsened by blustery talking heads and perpetually outraged social media, notions trump knowledge.

On the other hand, JAMA's Bob McNutt points out in The Health Care Blog that expertise can be put to good use when it informs individual decision makers.  If the DMCB is reading this right, experts need to not only be expert, but able to efficiently convey their knowledge for maximum impact one person at a time.

Which leads the DMCB to offer two insights:

1. Board of Directors and C-suite leaders would be well advised to think long and hard about the risk of "group think" that can arise from a charismatic and convincing leader.  Let that dominate your company's strategic planning and you expose your company to a concentrated unforeseen risk, including a classic Black Swan event.  Seek out that quiet person in the back of the room with a contrarian perspective and listen for ways to keep your options open.
2. The new definition of expertise is to not only be truly expert but to be able to convey your insights convincingly and quickly in a few paragraphs, a short email or within a 140 character "tweet."  The DMCB suspects that persons who can combine both skills will prevail in today's media markets, the public square and in business settings.  Electronic communication and social media - which engages persons one individual at a time - are leveling the playing field for wise introverts, which is good news.

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