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The dis/empowering Power of Quiet

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Here is a video that caught my eye – The power of Quiet

Here’s the challenge…

One might use another expression to describe “Introverts” and that is, “People who live in their heads”.  I have been at a number of companies where they have some sort of title, designation, or group such as “Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff”, “(Technical) Fellow”, “Distinguished Engineer”, or some such title.  The truth of these titles is that they are a parallel path for folks that, for whatever reason, are not on the corporate management or corporate leadership track.

My experience with these folks is that, given that they are “living in their head”, their communication skills are unpracticed and generally abysmal.  So when the company sets up programs that engage these folks as high value technical resources the company is sorely disappointed.  They have a difficult time writing, speaking, or engaging (in a social context) other people.

So, the clip below talks about Introverts and how valuable they are.  If they can’t communicate then how does one extract the value?  What is missing from this clip is the suggestion that introverts with great ideas can (and should) develop communication and social skills.  Is that so impossible?

If you have poor communication skills and can’t articulate a (great) idea to a general audience (investors, corporate executives) in the way they want to hear them then you will not have influence.  If you don’t have influence and you don’t understand social protocols then you will never sell your vision.  And if you can’t sell your vision to an audience then you are going to be stuck – no matter how great an idea – as some heads down engineer or technician in the lower floors of a giant corporation.  (Or out of work.)

Seems to me, if you have a great idea and passion, then you’ll work on social and communication skills (extrovert) to transform your ideas into reality.  Then you might be able to trade “Distinguished Member of the Technical Staff” living in a fabric cubicle for Vice President of Engineering with a corner office.  The delta is communication, social skills & protocols, and a bit of business sense.  Social intelligence goes a long way to carry technical and intellectual intelligence into realization through investors and corporate sponsors.

The clip seems to suggest that introverts can’t change and the only way they can be successful or have their ideas acted upon is to find someone else (an extrovert) to carry the water for them.  Sounds like dis/empowering advice for all those heads down technicians who live only in their head and who may never be recognized for their great ideas.

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me – they’re shy and they live in their heads.  They’re almost like artists.  In fact, the very best of them are artists.  And artists work best alone – best outside of corporate environments, best when they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee.  I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been designed by committee.  Because the committee would never agree!

Steve Wozniak

That, I believe, is some bad advice to engineers (read more from Woz)

Written by frrl

October 24, 2012 at 5:13 pm

One Response

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  1. I am 57 and have the exact title you disparage. In my current position I design high precision real time control systems that include accurate and efficient DSP signal processing code and many other advanced engineering tasks. I also have had Major Depressive Disorder all of my life. It is impossible for me to function in a group setting. I have never had a problem finding work and making a good salary (5 figures for the past decade). This is possible because I find employers that know how to make the best use of my talents just as I am, allowing me to be productive and contribute to society and their bottom line. Forcing me to fit an extroverted mold would destroy me. I would not work for you.

    Elwood Downey, WB0OEW

    October 25, 2012 at 4:44 pm

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