By Joe Randolph, President & CEO, The Innovation Institute
Let me start by stating that nobody is a complete introvert or extravert. There is likely a scale upon which everyone falls, somewhere between the two extremes. Also, this article is not trying to make the point that one is better than the other. There has been a lot of research about different personality types and which ones are more creative. The results are not very conclusive. I don’t believe that there is a clear winner. Some have argued that the truly transformational ideas come from introverts because they tend to be deeper thinkers. Others argue that the extraverts have better ideas because they seem to be more driven. This article is intended to share some insights or observations based on history about some of the differences. In the end, the Innovation Institute wants to be able to tap into the ideas from all personality types and to do this we will need use different approaches to engage everyone.
The first thing to understand is the characteristics of inventors and how best to nurture their creative processes. Nikola Tesla, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, and Steve Wozniak, all introverts, were inward-looking. They all have or had the capacity to develop their inventions, spending thousands of hours focused on the end product without the need for social interaction. These types of individuals can do their best thinking alone, without interruptions or intrusions. According to Susan Cain, author of the book Quiet, “Group Think” is not always beneficial for introverts because it can be an impediment to creative thinking for them.
Extroverts like Benjamin Franklin and Steve Jobs also have the capacity to think and create for hours, days, and years at a time. Yet, they also flourish in collaboration with others. Research shows that extroverts formulate good ideas through discussions and interactions. Extroverts thrive when working in a group setting where they can bounce ideas off others and work together.
Susan Cain says both introverts and extroverts should use their natural powers—of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity—to do work they love and work that matters.
The second thing to be aware of is the environment that is needed for each to succeed. All need time and space to create and develop their ideas. In the biographies about Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Benjamin Franklin, all strived for and ultimately obtained their own lab space to do their research and experimentation. This is where the magic took place for them. Thomas Edison would not have had his proliferation of inventions without his “Invention Factory” in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
Although Tesla was paid well at Westinghouse, he left because he felt most comfortable in his own private lab in New York, where he experimented extensively, leading to many discoveries. Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs would have never invented the first Apple computer if they hadn’t visited the Homebrew Computer Club in Menlo Park, California, a place where like-minded individuals could collaborate and carry out their mission to make computers accessible to regular people.
The Innovation Institute’s Innovation Lab space in Newport Beach, California provides a space for inventors to work quietly in solitude and also spaces for group collaboration.
Regardless of whether inventors are introverts, extroverts, or fall somewhere in the middle, most successful inventors I’ve read about seem to have some or all of the following characteristics:
- Seeker of Truth
- Curious / Imaginative
- Persistent, never defeated or beaten by failure. Never “give up” attitude.
- A desire to do something meaningful and good. Want to make a difference!
And they all need the following:
- Freedom to experiment
- Space and time to draw out ideas
Nikola Tesla, best known for inventing AC electricity, is one of the great scientists of all time, yet historic accounts attest to the fact that he never got the credit he deserved. Those who practiced business more aggressively took advantage of his genius. The Innovation Lab will protect each idea and strive to make it a reality, while giving the inventor the credit and financial reward deserved.
Introverts do not need to worry about having to be outwardly expressive for the Innovation Lab to listen to their ideas. We serve as the Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklins of the world, ready to negotiate with potential partners for you, and ready to publicize and market each product so that it gets into the hands of all who need it. Every inventor can be confident that we will represent them in the best light and allow them to participate in the cultivation of their inventions, while sharing their passion and motivation to make a difference.
In his commencement speech at Stanford University, Steves Jobs advised the young graduates to “stay hungry, stay foolish.” This was a quote from the last page of the Whole Earth Catalogue from his youth. What I might add to that is, “Everyone has the capacity to be an inventor. Our goal is to build trust with all our inventors to help them achieve greatness!”
originally published in Physician’s News Network