Unlocking Introverted Creativity

This week I’m looking for help.  Yes, that’s right, this Blog isn’t just a one way street, you know!

I had a goldfish that did this once.  It survived 30 mins on the kitchen floor.

I had a goldfish that did this once. It survived 30 mins on the kitchen floor.

I’m looking for your input into the design of a workshop I have coming up on the subject of Innovation and Creativity.  My client is asking me to develop skills in the use of Creativity tools to help the group to drive innovation.  I’ll be doing so through 2 hour workshops, so probably have time to look at 4 different techniques.

I was reviewing my thoughts on this yesterday and realised that I had fallen into one of the classic traps that we trainers overlook all too often:  designing something that would work for me as to what would necessarily work for “them”.

As an Extrovert, what would work for me on a short Creativity workshop would be to practice tools that work well in groups:  Brainstorming is an obvious example – a tool most people are familiar with, but all too many don’t in fact use effectively.

But think about it for 2 seconds, and you realise that this could be a big mistake:  Extroverts might well enjoy practising how to brainstorm, but, durrrrr, what about the other 50% of people in the session – the Introverts?  They get energy from inside, prefer to work alone, think before they speak, prefer to listen, like to reflect.  Asking them to get better at Brainstorming is asking them to get better at writing with their wrong hand.  Why not develop their skills at using a technique that works well with their Introverted preference?

Creative people always wear a bow tie, right?

Creative people always wear a bow tie, right?

I’m annoyed at myself for not having thought about this earlier, because it shows I have that bias towards Extroversion which is endemic in today’s society.  In a survey conducted by USA Today, 65 per cent of executives said they perceive introversion as a barrier to leadership, and only 6 per cent believe that Introverts are better at it.

So I’d like your help please.  I have some ideas on what might work (how to get some good Gestation going, for instance), but would love to hear from you, either as an Introvert speaking from your own experience or as someone who has worked with Introverts and learnt how to unlock their creativity.  The question is:

“What tools or techniques work best for Introverts to help them generate creative ideas?”

Answers on a postcard please, and I promise that if I get more than 20 recommendations I will write another article in which I summarize them, as well as share the techniques I use on the workshop (and how they were received).

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About Michael Brown Training

I'm a business skills trainer, facilitator and coach. I've been helping people to learn for 16 years, working all around the world on topics such as Negotiation, Conflict Handling, Sales, Leadership, Consulting and Personal Effectiveness. I'm an ENFP, constantly looking for new and inspiring things to do. I love my job for its variety and the stimulation I get from it, and spend most of my time seeing how far we can go with the subjects we work on in the training room. I've recently started a new venture in making video on how NOT to do things, which you can find at www.hownot2.com
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17 Responses to Unlocking Introverted Creativity

  1. Pingback: The Extrovert Girl and the Introvert Boy (Version 2) | The Daily Alpeonica

  2. Laverne Hibbett says:

    I have used “silent brainstorming” where each participant writes an idea on a Post-it Note. Once everyone has written all their ideas on separate Post-It Notes, these are collected and can then be categorized and read. Clarification of ideas can be offered. Sometimes this sparks additional ideas which can be written and posted. This has been a good way to engage introverts initially and help them become more comfortable when the group discussion and evaluation of ideas begins. I have also used the following printed resources to find questions to pose to a group to spark creativity and innovation: “75 Cage-Rattling Questions to change the way you work” by Dick Whitney and Melissa Giovagnoli; “Ingenious Lateral Thinking Puzzles” by Paul Sloane and Des MacHale; “Challenging Lateral Thinking Puzzles” by Sloane and MacHale. Edward De Bono’s “Six Thinking Hats” is also a useful framework for this.


  3. daveloewy says:

    Random association, particularly using images and physical objects, is a great technique. To include introverts, I always do brain-writing rather than brainstorming, even on virtual sessions. Research from INSEAD showed it generates much better ideas. Related Worlds is fun too: Ask where else (industry or organisation or person) already does something similar, and then follow up by exploring what they do. Reversing is also fun: What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen? Surprisingly, you often find the answers are exactly what they do today! A great book on this is “How to have Kick-Ass ideas” by Chris Barez-Brown. This is one of my favourite topics, so please give me a call – 07801 763414!


  4. Hi Mikey
    I think all of us are creative to a greater or lesser degree, it is just that some people are more socially anxious about “performing” and being judged by their peers. How about easing the way for the introverts by contacting them by e mail beforehand and asking them to consider some topics before they attend?. They can then submit their ideas after working them up in their own time and comfort zone.Assure them that they will not have to formally present their ideas on attening the workshop, just that the ideas will be floated by you for the group to consider when on the course. I bet you will get the introverts to support their idea without necessarily claiming ownership (although you will know!)
    Regards MC


  5. Sher says:

    I am an introvert and have found several things about how I work best in team, group and/or work settings. As Spencer pointed out, starting out in a safe territory (environment) works. Placing an introvert in a situation where he or she is forced to participate will fail every time (an enormous stressor and path to shutting down any creative thinking). Researching, list making, charting, free flow jouranling are all great tasks for Introverts as we (I) possess a strong skill: listening. The listening leads to thinking, the thinking to the creative process through the above mentioned tasks.

    When I am needing to solve a problem, create or write my blog for the week I begin with those tasks, listening being the key tool.


  6. Don’t forget that introverts do act as extroverts when they have a mask to hide behind. Get them to assume another personal before carrying out an extrovert activity.


  7. Maggie says:

    Have you heard of IDEO. Cisco works wtih them for ideas. We could be incorporating more tools that others like IDEO use because many people especially th have ideas that could bring great value to us and our customers.

    One of the things that IDEO does was they have this concept of “white space.” Because they work on projects they have times when they are on no project. They can use this time to take more training or work on an idea. Chris was using his white space to learn how speak in front of people better. To the more extreme, Stefan Sagmeister on TED.com talked about every seven years takes a yearlong sabbatical where he rejuvenates. He believes most of his innovative work comes from ideas during that year off.


  8. spencer says:

    the beauty is they can all be adapted right down to a 1:1 coaching model, your role being to ask the right questions as always, maybe chucking in a few examples of where they’ve been used in industry (Guinness, Pizza Hut, Ford, Heinz, Post-its) to bring them into reality


  9. Spencer says:

    Outrageous opposites, metaphorical attribute listing and morphological matrix are all great with introverts as they start in safe territory (logical/traditional answers) then get into creative thinking in a structured way. I ran these for several years with accountants at the audit commission. Safe to say a largely logical and introverted cohort. We had huge success…


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