Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book Review: Quiet and musing on Introvert and extrovert Enterprise Architects

I happened to come across Susan Cain’s bestseller, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking,  mentioned in an online blog debating personality of technologist and Enterprise Architects and decided to check it out. Peppered with anecdotes and stories, the book well researched and highly readable, not in the style of usual self-help books.   It is certainly an interesting book that takes a 360 degree view of introverts, extroverts and their interactions.  (my Amazon Review)

The book starts by exploring the extrovert culture in America.  The reason for the book’s bestseller status is obvious. It speaks to many of us who might have been called “shy,” “reserved” or at times “introverted” and “quite.” Nobody wants to be labeled thus, especially in professional circles where it can spell “failure.”
At work and in professional engagements, speaking up is seen as a virtue, and an opportunity to stand out.  By not doing so, one could miss out on opportunities; or so it is perceived by most of us. In  our professional life, many of us who might prefer the solitude and quite reflection might put on an extrovert fa├žade.

 Just as the label is contextual and not permanent, there are aspects of the book that one may relate to more than others. As the author and most analysts of human behavior have noted, there is a sliding scale of being extroverts and introverts with a vast majority of us finding a place somewhere in the middle, most of the time.

I love the section on Soft Power explaining the Asian-Americans and the extrovert ideal. It highlights the cultural variances as it pertains to extrovert ideal and introverts while also bringing in the cross-cultural dimensions.  The author’s research is based on review of Asian Americans and Chinese American “kids” in America. She summarizes “Though Eastern relationship-honoring is admirable and beautiful, so is Western respect for individual freedom, self-expression and personal destiny.  The point is not that one is superior to the other, but profound difference in cultural values has a powerful impact on the personal styles favored by each culture. In the West, we subscribe to the Extrovert Ideal, while in much of Asia (at least before the westernization of past several decades), silence is golden. “

Musing on Enterprise Architects and personality types:
  • Communication skills, both verbal and written along with an ability to listen attentively is a key success factor. Introverts need to trust their gut and share their ideas as powerfully as they can.
  •  It is typical to see an EA team with all personality traits; would be too much of a group-think if it were otherwise. Susan Cain explains there is a place for both extroverts and introverts in corporate world (If you are in the backyard sitting under a tree while everyone else is clicking glasses on the patio, you’re more likely to have an apple fall on your head.).
  • Enterprise Architects should train themselves to be both introvert and extrovert as the communication scenario demands.
  • Attitude matters more than personality types. By attitude, I mean perseverance and willingness to stick one’s neck out if the situation demands. Willingness to speak up when something is not right is perhaps as important as the right way to say it; and finding right forum where voicing an opinion will matter.
  • If you’re a manager responsible for Enterprise Architecture, a tip from Susan Cain “remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear that way or not. … make the most of introverts’ strengths – these are the people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems and spot canaries in your coal mine
Bottomline: Personality type plays a lesser role in most business interactions than we give it credit. With the right experience, grounding and training all personality types – introverts, extroverts and those in between –can make good architects.

Tags: Books