Author Urges Managers to Let Introverts Be Themselves

In her best-selling book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” Susan Cain does a masterful job describing some disconcerting trends that introverts (like me) have sensed but haven’t been able to calmly and thoroughly articulate. She backs up her assertions with detailed research that can help introverts be more confident about everything they have to offer.

Cain contends that in this era of the “Extrovert Ideal” there is a very deep and real bias against introverts, particularly in the workplace and in the classroom. She explains it like this: “Introversion—along with its cousins, sensitivity, seriousness, and shyness—is now a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology. Introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.  Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.”

Although talkative people may be viewed as smarter or more interesting, some of the world’s greatest ideas, art, and inventions have come from quiet people “who knew how to tune into their inner worlds.” Famous introverts include Stephen Spielberg, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Mahatma Ghandi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks.

Rather than urge introverts to come out of their shells, Cain advises business managers, parents, and teachers to give introverts the freedom to be themselves. 

A good way to start is to recognize that introverts and extroverts work differently. “Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly,” explains Cain. “They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions and are comfortable multitasking and risk-taking. They enjoy the thrill of the chase for rewards like money and status. Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.”

During the seven years Cain spent researching and writing the book, she talked with dozens of psychologists, neuroscientists, business leaders, and professors. For the chapter on “The Myth of Charismatic Leadership,” she visited organizations that make extroversion a prerequisite for leadership, such as Harvard Business School, the Tony Robbins salesmanship workshops, and the Saddleback evangelical church led by Rick Warren.

The book discusses:

  •  how extroversion became the cultural ideal
  • the role of free will in temperament (and the secret of public speaking for introverts)
  • how introverts and extroverts think (and process dopamine) differently
  • how to talk to members of the opposite type
  • how to raise and educate introverted children
  • when to act more extroverted than you really are

The Case against Groupthink

The most interesting chapter to me is titled, “When Collaboration Kills Creativity: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone.”

Cain believes that by elevating teamwork above all else, Groupthink can stifle productivity at work and deprive schoolchildren of skills they will need to excel in an increasingly competitive world.

She explains that the concept of Groupthink originated during the early days of the Internet. The web enabled groups of introverts to come together and subvert traditional problem-solving methods. The key difference is that the groups responsible for innovations such as Linux and Wikipedia weren’t working in an open-plan office space or participating in face-to-face brainstorming sessions. They had time to think on their own before contributing their ideas to the group.

Once collaboration started to be viewed as a facilitator of success, Cain writes: “We failed to realize that what makes sense in the asynchronous, relatively anonymous interactions of the Internet might not work as well inside the face-to-face, politically charged, acoustically noisy confines of the open-plan office.” She contends that “If you gathered the same people who created Linux, installed them in a giant conference room for a year and asked them devise a new operating system, it’s doubtful that anything so revolutionary would have occurred.”

To illustrate the type of work that can self-motivated introverts can achieve in solitude, she cites passages from Steve Wozniak’s memoir “iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Found Apple, and Had Fun Doing It.”

After attending a meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club in 1975, Wozniak did most of the work on the first Apple computer alone. He writes that, “Most inventors and engineers are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. They are almost like artists. And artists work best alone 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 revolutionary has been invented by committee.” But, Cain acknowledges that Apple wouldn’t have become the business force that it is today if Wozniak hadn’t collaborated with Steve Jobs, another member of the Homebrew Computer Club.

To explain why solitude is so important to the creative process, Cain references psychologist Anders Ericsson’s theory on the role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance. Cain writes that, “It’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in deliberate practice, in which you identify the tasks or knowledge that are out of your reach, strive to upgrade your performance, monitor your progress, and revise accordingly.” Deliberate practice requires intense concentration and deep motivation and involves “working on the task that is most challenging to you personally.” The working conditions conducive to deliberate practice aren’t easy to find in many workplaces today.

Cain also cites research that shows that group brainstorming sessions aren’t as productive as when group members work individually to produce ideas. Of course, face-to-face contact is important because it builds trust and relationships. But, Cain argues that group dynamics can impede creative thinking.

Although group brainstorming sessions do make people feel attached, they often don’t result in the best ideas. Some individuals sit back passively and let others take charge. Others don’t want to look foolish in front of their colleagues. Sometimes, the group acquiesces to the people who are most assertive or eloquent, whether their ideas are actually any good or not.

The way to come up with ideas free from the distortions of group dynamics, says Cain, “is not to stop collaborating face to face, but to refine the way we do it.” She writes that: “If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically, or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone has had a chance to contribute.”

The book cites studies showing that the most effective teams include a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts. Cain suggests seeking out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership roles and other tasks are divided based on each person’s natural strengths and temperament.

Introverts Can Relate to the Examples

Many passages in Cain’s book echoed experiences from my own career. When I was promoted to the plum assignment of editing a start-up magazine about emerging technologies, some colleagues suggested (behind my back) that I might be “too timid” for the job. Cain emphasizes that there are significant distinctions between being “quiet” and being “shy.”

Plus, Cain says, introverts can successfully stretch themselves to act like extroverts—if they find a job or cause they are passionate about. That was certainly true for me. Whenever I played the role of editor, it was easy to make small talk at trade-show cocktail parties—partly because I could quickly turn the conversation into a more substantive discussion of industry-related news.

Although I loved attending trade shows (where I was privileged to talk one-on-one with some of the brightest people in the technology business), I was content to return to the solitude of my hotel room to reflect and write about what I had seen and learned.

Still, if I had read the book “Quiet” earlier, my career path might have been different. For example, I never overcame my paralyzing fear of public (and extemporaneous) speaking. Instinctively, I have always known that my mind processes information in a way that makes extemporaneous public speaking difficult. In the book “Quiet,” Cain cites research that confirms that there are physiological reasons that introverts have a greater fear of public speaking than extroverts.

She describes attending a public-speaking workshop designed specifically to help introverts overcome these difficulties. You can see how proficient a public speaker she has become by watching the well-received speech she recently gave at a TED conference.


Inspiring Advice

At the end of the book, Cain provides dozens of practical tips for introverts, parents, managers, and spouses of introverts. Here are a few nuggets of her advice for introverts:

  • Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world, and make sure you contribute it. If this requires public speaking, networking, or other activities that make you uncomfortable, do them anyway.
  • Use your natural powers of persistence, concentration, insight, and sensitivity to do work you love and work that matters. Solve problems, make art, think deeply.
  • Work with colleagues you like and respect.
  • Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.

“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting,” writes Cain. “For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others it’s a lamplit desk.”  As I sit here blogging away at my lamplit desk, I couldn’t agree more!


“Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain


Author Urges Introverts to Reclaim Their Time and Space

Book Explains How to Publish a Photography Book

PHOTOGRAPHERS. If you have an idea for a photography-book project but aren’t sure whether to self publish or seek a publisher, read the new book “Publish Your Photography Book” by photography-book-industry insiders Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson. In addition to explaining the process of publishing a book of your photographs, the book highlights avenues you might not have considered and points out potential pitfalls.

It also suggests that a photography book can help enhance your visibility and career. Himes and Swanson note that a well-executed photography book can provide you with a passport to the international photography scene and lead to exhibitions, talks, gallery walks, press interviews, and other opportunities.

The book is divided into six sections.

Section 1: The Photography Book Phenomenon
Here, the authors explain why interest in books as a means of photographic expression is rising (and isn’t likely to be disappear any time soon). They point out that a photography book is more than a simple collection of printed photographs. It is often regarded as an autonomous art form.

Section 2: The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing
Whether you plan to self-publish or submit a proposal to a trade-book publisher, this section emphasizes the importance of clearly understanding your goals and developing a solid and engaging concept for your book.

The authors recommend examining your favorite photography books in more detail: What is the book about? Can you summarize the subject in one clear sentence? Is there a singular artistic vision? How is the cover designed? How are the pages laid out? How are the images sequenced? How much does the book stick with you after you’d viewed it?

Section 2 also talks about how publishers work, explains how to approach a publisher, and suggests things to look for when reading a publishing contract.

You’ll also learn how and when it makes sense to use print-on-demand technology to publish a book yourself and when you’d be better off going through a publisher.

For example, working with a publishing company involves collaborating with experienced professionals. This means you must be prepared to compromise in certain areas because the book is not just yours alone, but is also part of a company with a brand and a mission. When you self-publish, you must take on all steps of the process yourself, including hiring individuals who can help you execute your vision for the book and help market it.

The authors write that: “Successful self-publishers are those who are organized and entrepreneurial at heart, who know their audience, can effectively reach that audience, and have the financial and labor resources available to take on numerous roles.”

Section 3: The Making of Your Book
This section walks you through the three main stages of making a book: determining and shaping the editorial content, creating a design that enhances the content without overwhelming it, and working with a printer. Many of these decisions will be based on the concept you have developed and communicated for the book.

Section 4: The Marketing of Your Book
No matter whether you self-publish or have your book published, expect to play an active role in marketing and promoting your book. And you don’t wait until your book is printed to begin thinking about marketing. The first phase of your marketing strategy should begin well before your book is ready to ship. The second phase will be designed to extend the life of your book beyond its publication date.

“Publish Your Photography Book” provides tips for building mailing lists, creating a budget, maintaining a consistent brand identity, working with a publicist, mailing publicity packets, and using the Internet.

The authors also talk about opportunities for cross-marketing. For example, “If the photographs featured in your book can be acquired as limited-edition prints, or are available to be presented as a collection in a traveling exhibition, it is wise to include that information in all formats of your press materials.”

Section 5: Case Studies
Throughout Sections 1 through 4, you’ll find insightful interviews with publishers, editors, designers, photographers, and self-publishers that reinforce some of the advice presented in the book. Section 5 profiles seven photographers who have published one or more photography books:

  • Alec Soth, “Sleeping by the Mississippi” and “The Last Days of W”
  • Paula McCartney, “Bird Watching”
  • David Maisel, “Library of Dust”
  • Lisa M. Robinson, “Snowbound”
  • Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, “Violet Isle”
  • Sean Perry, “Transitory and Fairgrounds”
  • John Gossage, “The Pond”, and “Stadt Des Schwarz”

One of the profiles quotes McCartney as saying, “It is very important that my books are artworks in themselves, not merely portfolios of my photographic projects…I think of books as a medium—like painting, photography, or sculpture—where all of the elements, including form, content, and materials are in dialogue with each other and are meaningful to the finished work.”

Section 6: Resources, Appendices, and Worksheets
This section includes 24 pages of helpful resources. For example, it includes: a diagram of the anatomy of a photography book; timelines for design, production, and marketing activities; a worksheet for preparing for your book; and guidelines for submitting a proposal to publishers. Also included are lists of: publishers; distributors; independent bookstores and dealers; festivals, awards, and trade events; blogs and book art resources; and online marketing resources.

About the Authors
Darius D. Himes was a founding editor of photo-eye Booklist and is a cofounder of Radius Books, a nonprofit company publishing books on the visual arts. Himes is a lecturer, consultant, and writer who has contributed to numerous publications. PDN magazine named him one of the fifteen most influential people in photography book publishing. For the past four years, Himes has been the lead judge of Blurb’s Photography Book Now Competition.

Mary Virginia Swanson is a consultant in the area of licensing and marketing fine-art photography. Swanson frequently lectures and conducts seminars and educational programs for photographers. She is a respected judge of competitions and awards as well as frequent portfolio reviewer.

If you want guidance about how to proceed with a specific book idea, Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson offer one-on-one in-person or Skype consultations. To schedule a consultation, visit:


Publish Your Photography Book





Sales and Marketing Execs Are From Mars; Creative Pros Are From Venus

By Eileen Fritsch

Book Cover The Creative ProfessionalFive years ago, Emmis Books sent me a review copy of “The Creative Professional: A Survival Guide for the Business World” by Howard J. Blumenthal. It was billed as “a book to help right-brained people survive in left-brained world.” The press release noted the same personality traits that give certain people a creative edge can also cause turbulence in a corporate atmosphere.

That statement grabbed my attention because the editors, writers, art directors, and photographers I worked with on magazines seemed increasingly at odds with the publishers, sales reps, and bean counters who set our budgets and marketing strategies.

In 2005, the painful, disruptive transition from print to online media was just beginning to ramp up. Our editorial staffs were already lean. It didn’t help that our art and editorial budgets were slashed even further as print-advertising buyers began diverting big chunks of budgets to developing websites, internal databases for email marketing, and emerging forms of online media.

We stopped hiring photographers, illustrators, and freelance writers. We started using cheap stock photography and more advertorial-like feature stories freely supplied by PR agencies. To make matters worse, every staff writer and designer was expected to produce more content—including websites, books, conference workbooks, and promotional materials.

As the quality of our work began to suffer, the creative pros started complaining. Some of us passionately believed that short-sighted business decisions were undermining the overall quality and value of our editorial products. And we predicted it wouldn’t take long for readers (and potential future advertisers) to notice.

Blumenthal’s book helped me understand why it was perfectly natural for the creative pros on the staff to feel so argumentative. The book also explains why business people consider creative pros difficult to manage.  While our innate ability to think and see things differently can be a great asset to businesses seeking innovative solutions to new problems, business-focused people don’t always see it the same way.

For example, traditional business people see their mission as generating profits. They consider sales as the most important aspect of any business.

Conversely, creative professionals generate value (which is far more difficult to quantify than quarterly profits). Creative pros see business as a holistic system and believe sales will succeed if the entire system works properly.

Blumenthal admits that working with creative professionals “is no picnic.” Many managers don’t understand our nonlinear thought processes and what motivates us. Whereas many employees like the security of a paycheck, benefits, and sense of community, creative pros are typically driven by three other needs: 

  • the need to know, understand, and explore;
  • the need to constantly learn and improve our techniques and skills; and
  • the need to derive part of our self-image from our work.

So why do some creative people do well in a corporate environment while others struggle? Blumenthal says it’s not simply a matter of skill. He contends that “A creative professional who takes the time to understand the company’s operations and manages projects accordingly will be far more likely to win the business game than a creative who simple writes with talent and skill.”

In the book, Blumenthal lists seven key attributes as crucial to success:

  • a keen understanding of the marketplace
  • abundant self knowledge
  • the ability to engage others in your creative work
  • the right combination of integrity and cooperation
  • the willingness of others to work with you (based on track record, industry reputation, personality, and quality of the opportunity)
  • your ability to raise necessary resources and/or support

As Blumenthal puts it: “The creative process does not exist in a vacuum. Instead, you are part of a community. The way you behave as a member of that community will affect your success more profoundly than your ability to dance, juggle, sculpt, arrange the horn section, or any other skill-based endeavor.”

Much has changed since Blumenthal’s book was released.

Media channels and platforms for online marketing have multiplied. Print publications that failed to develop effective online strategies are being forced out of business. Corporate marketing managers are under tremendous pressure to do more with less, while producing measurable returns on every expenditure.  New forms of analytics have made it increasingly easy to pinpoint exactly which forms of communications are generating the most bang for the buck.   

Blumenthal’s book primarily focused on helping creative professionals succeed as full-time employees in a corporate environment. But he points out two other ways creative professionals can earn a living:

  • working for multiple clients; or
  • selling work to the public, either directly or through a publisher or distributor.

Happily, the transformation from print publishing to online publishing and communications has made it far easier for creative professionals to develop a broader base of clients and/or sell more of their work directly to the public.

However, if creative pros want to work with a broader base of clients or sell directly to the public, there is one big drawback. We must develop some of the sales and marketing skills and financial discipline that seem to come so naturally to the profit-minded left-brained business people.