I’m currently reading a book called “Quiet: The Power of introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking”, authored by Susan Cain (there’s also a TED talk of hers in case you’re interested). Cain argues that in the world of so-called “Extrovert Ideal” where “omnipresence belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha and comfortable in the spotlight”, introversion is rendered to “a second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology”.
Putting aside the argument that the world favours extroverted personality traits, introversion/extroversion is a topic of my personal interest and it strikes me that many architects that I have worked with appear to be introverted.
Paradoxically, the role of an architect often requires the individual to be in the spotlight, whether it is in the situation of facilitating a workshop with various stakeholders or communicating with C-level executives the necessary changes within the organisation. While these architects that I’ve worked with have all adapted well in the working environment with excellent socialising skills, many prefer spending their time in a quiet corner or working from home so that they can focus on the task and contemplating for a solution to the problem at hand. I observed that they have an immense interest in how things work, enjoy immersing themselves in the exercise of dissecting different functions and capabilities within the organisation and finding out how they fit together to deliver an outcome that is aligned to the business strategies and goals. They have an acute sense of observation and their intuition often leads them to discern the subtle political undercurrents. Being soft-spoken and disliking conflicts, their inclination to listen and think before they speak has been known to diffuse tense situations that involved heated debates.
When asked about their thoughts on the topic of introvert as an architect, these colleagues of mine shared with me a few tips:
- While the communicating skill is important, the ability to listen attentively and the patience to hear people out is imperative
- Since introverts tend to feel drained when there is too much external stimulation or interaction with others, always plan for quiet time alone to recharge/reflect
- Form allies and reach out to others for help
- Develop strategies to deal with conflicts – for example, understand that heated debates are not always personal, try steering discussion towards reasons/rationales rather than one that is based on emotional/perception/fear/prejudice
- Creativity and productivity usually happens in solitude but it needs to be in balance with collaboration in a team setting
Of course, the tendency of introversion or extroversion is not absolute and we can behave in one way or the other depending on the circumstances. It is also important to stress that being introverted or extroverted does not reflect the quality of the work that an architect can deliver. But if you think that an introvert would not be able to succeed in the field of enterprise architecture, you might have underestimated the power of introverts.
Originally posted as 'Introvert as an architect?' on the Enterprise Architects website.