Putting together project teams is so common, we don't even think about it anymore. But we should if we are looking for better solutions to problems. I have good news and bad news for you.
The Good News: Recent research has given us new information that helps us manage the workforce better for creativity and innovation.
The Bad News: The findings tell us that those who tend to be introverted are rarely able to thrive in a team environment, so the solution will be difficult. Some team management practices that have become routine must be changed or supplemented.
To summarize the basics:
- Introverts find it difficult to interact assertively in groups. Groups and routine management practices favor those who are articulate and extroverted. A work group, then, can naturally miss capturing introverts' opinions, ideas and solutions.
- This work environment is particularly bad because introverts can be excellent innovators with their ability to focus and work alone. (For more, check out the new book by Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.) New tactics are required.
Some of this may not be obvious, so here are some examples of how introverts could be stymied and what you could do about it.
An introverted enterprise architect's innovative vision is overrun by two powerful business personalities who want to keep the status quo, even though it requires staying on obsolete infrastructure.
Your Intervention: You facilitate others in IT to support the benefits of the more innovative approach, putting particular attention on business rationale.
An introverted programmer's attempt at a solution on a web form is not accepted well by customer experience advocates. You see there is a big picture they are not understanding, but the programmer cannot be persuasive enough.
Your intervention: Conduct a separate meeting where you or a champion explains the big picture in terms the customer experience advocates can understand.
An introverted designer finds an elegant way to leverage existing features and functions to create the project solution more cheaply using the current production system. Strong voices from experienced and respected IT stakeholders, however, want to start from scratch due to extreme obsolescence of the system. The designer considered future replacement of current system upcoming was long-term anyway and looked for immediate benefits.
Your intervention: After you ensure the issue is escalated, you facilitate use if the original design by the programmers, which is best for short-term benefit while waiting for system-replacement.
This new understanding of the plight of introverts puts in question the use of techniques such as brainstorming as well. The ideas and views of introverts can be lost in such group interactions.
There are many ways to support introverts. Just stay aware and make adjustments as necessary.