The idea that group thinking is the best way to create is rampant. Companies are designed around the concept that ten minds are better than one. Employee schedules are filled with frequent team meetings and activities. Open office plans have proliferated. Somehow, creative work has become a group activity.
This is unfortunate, not just for introverts, but for everyone. Group work is actually the enemy of creativity. Instead of fostering great ideas, it inhibits them.
When it comes to creative work, the rest of the world can learn a thing or two from introverts. Our love of solitude helps us to unlock creative treasures. While group work encourages conformity, solitude breeds unique thought. Without the distraction of other (often louder) people, the mind offers up its best ideas. Free from the judging eyes of the group, it can wonder and make connections.
As humans, our natural inclination is to procrastinate or avoid creative work. It’s difficult to focus your mind and energy on something as illusive as an idea under construction. Instead, we find ways to distract ourselves. If we are smart, we trick ourselves into thinking we are being productive as we procrastinate.
Just like surfing the net or snacking on a full stomach, group brainstorming is more of a distraction than a productive activity. It offers the illusion of creative connectivity, but really only produces social connectivity. As Apple co-creator, Steve Wozniak put it,
“I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee… I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone… Not on a committee. Not on a team.” –Steve Wozniak
Instead of tearing down walls and cramming employees into countless meetings, companies should give people space to create. Before even considering groupthink, individuals should learn to think on their own.
Most of all, it’s time for society to acknowledge what introverts have known all along; great ideas – like great people – develop away from the crowd.