Sunday, March 11, 2012

Quiet, The Power of Introverts Third Text for Assignment 2

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking.

According to her book jacket, Susan Cain’s work on introversion and shyness has appeared in the New York Times and on  She is an honors graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School.  The studies she cites in her book are backed by 271 notes of researched material.

This book addresses, in perhaps a round-about way, some of the concerns about smart mobs.  Cook at the Winnipeg Free Press certainly questions the wisdom of the crowd -  is a group of people really going to reach better conclusions or more creative solutions than an individual? (my second text posting on Kony2012)

The focus of much of what we have read in this course and certainly throughout the program, has been that groups are good.  Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody quotes James Surowiecki concerning the “wisdom of crowds…distributed groups whose members aren’t connected can often generate better answers, by pooling their knowledge or intuition without having to come to an agreement” (Shirky, 2009, p 269).

We can see this idea that groups are good in how our elementary schools promote seating children in pods or groups of 4 tables where students can engage with each other.   Our corporate offices support open concept office areas; “over 70 per cent of today’s employees work in an open space” (Cain, 2012, p 18) where office mates can easily meet each other and exchange ideas. 

As a college professor I am encouraged to create group activities so students can learn from each other and also be prepared for the workplace where they will be expected to work on a team.

It is all based on the concept that we will get better results – a better education or improved workplace productivity - when we bring people together.  The philosophy “insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place” (Cain, 2012, p. 15).

But Cain quotes a 5th grade teacher who cautions “respect for others is based on their verbal abilities, not their originality or insight” (2012, p. 22).  Cain also reports on studies that clearly showed participants “produced more ideas when they worked on their own than when they worked as a group. They also produced ideas of equal or higher quality when working individually” (2012, p. 88).

Why this seeming difference of groups versus individuals?  The idea that group work was superior, according to Cain, was a result of the world wide web which allowed “ridiculously easy group forming” (Shirky, 2009, p. 54).  She notes the irony that the web was created by computer engineers who were working independent of each other.

Cain says we have ”failed to realize that what makes sense of the asynchronous, relatively anonymous interactions of the Internet, might not work as well inside the face-to-face, politically charged, acoustically noisy confines of an open plan office” (Cain, 2012, p. 26).

This book suggests we should reconsider that approach and the author provides some compelling studies behind her argument. 

Cain cites studies that have ”shown that performance gets worse as group size increases” (p. 88) but then notes “The one exception to this is online brainstorming. Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs” (Cain, p 89).

This perhaps supports the hope that the smart mobs may in fact produce better results than what might be achieved by face to face group interactions. But note she includes the phrase "when properly managed" which is something the Concerned Citizen report, (my first posting) addresses with the term "handrails." 

Again, if we are to parent or teach a successfully transliterate population, the term takes on even more significance considering Cain’s research; we need to be transliterate across multiple technical platforms and in a variety of ways – but we can't forget offline. That includes being literate or aware of human nature, being media savvy, and being able to work effectively in both the online and offline worlds which are different.

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. Crown Publishers, United States, New York.

Shirky, C. (2009). Here comes everybody, the power of organizing without organizations.  Penguin Group, New York

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