The great English professor Alan Jacobs (currently at Wheaton, but headed to Baylor University's Honors College) blogs at The American Conservative. A couple of days ago, he noted a "very thoroughly researched and well-argued scholarly article" published in 2005 that shows group productivity is an illusion. He notes:
All those brainstorming sessions and group projects you’ve been made to do at school and work? Useless. Everybody would have been better off working on their own...
Has the puncturing of that “illusion of group productivity” had any effect? Of course not. Groupthink is as powerful as ever. Why is that?
I’ll tell you. It’s because the world is run by extraverts. (And FYI, that’s the proper spelling: extrovert is common but wrong, because extra- is the proper Latin prefix.) Extraverts love meetings — any possible excuse for a meeting, they’ll seize on it. They might hear others complain about meetings, but the complaints never sink in: extraverts can’t seem to imagine that the people who say they hate meetings really mean it. “Maybe they hate other meetings, but I know they’ll enjoy mine, because I make them fun! Besides, we’ll get so much done!” (Let me pause here to acknowledge that the meeting-caller is only one brand of extravert: some of the most pronouncedly outgoing people I know hate meetings as much as I do.)
The problem with extraverts — not all of them, I grant you, but many, so many — is a lack of imagination. They simply assume that everyone will feel about things as they do. “The more the merrier, right? It’s a proverb, you know.” Yes it is: a proverb coined by an extravert. So people I do not know will regularly send me emails: “Hey, I’ll be in your town soon and I’d love to have lunch or coffee. Just let me know which you’d prefer!” Notice the missing option: not being forced to have a meal and make conversation with a stranger. (Once a highly extraverted friend of mine was trying to get me involved in some project and said, cheerily, “You’ll get to meet lots of new people!” I turned to him and replied, “You realize, don’t you, that you’ve just ensured my refusal to participate?”)
According to my Myers-Briggs testing, I'm on the border between extrovert, er, extravert and introvert. I would have assumed I was an extravert as I'm a social creature engaged in public activities.
But I do find the whole thing quite draining. I think this means I'm in the worst of both worlds. If extraverts recharge their batteries by being around other people and introverts recharge by being alone, I find both useful and yet have a love-hate relationship with them. I actually do enjoy, in large measure, going to events and interacting with others. But then I hit a point where I really need to be alone. I am also extremely anxious about being with other people, even though most would probably say I "do well" in social situations.
Of course, as my friend Jerry Brito points out, there are quite a few myths about introverts.
Jacobs' cri de coeur ends with asking extraverts to refrain from organizing stuff for the New Year. At least we should avoid too many brainstorming sessions!
But it leads me to wonder about the Ricochet community. Are we mostly extraverts or introverts? Do we prefer this online interaction in part because we can regulate our level of activity with others? Do any of us run to the extremes in either the extravert or introvert direction?