Why I work alone





Solitude is out of fashion. Our companies, our schools and our culture are in thrall to an idea I call the New Groupthink, which holds that creativity and achievement come from an oddly gregarious place. Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in. Susan Cain.

I've always been labelled an extravert, and if you met me you would probably agree. But the one thing that I've wrestled with for years is how much I like to be alone and how much I like to be alone especially when I am working. Am I an Extrovert FRAUD!?

As a creative professional I dread brainstorms. I believe, nothing is more capable of killing a good idea than a hungry brainstorming group.

Great ideas are just good ideas with the dirt polished away. In a brainstorming session people love to point out the dirt as soon as possible it won't work, it's been done, too broad, too narrow etc. But to make a good idea great you have to start out by ignoring the dirt (the idea's faults) and just focus on what makes good in the first place. I've seen many good ideas killed because they weren't great. It's a shame and it's wasteful. Why are we wasting our good ideas?!?



... decades of research show that individuals almost always perform better than groups in both quality and quantity, and group performance gets worse as group size increases. The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” wrote the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”

... the most spectacularly creative people in many fields are often introverted, according to studies by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist. They’re extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas, but see themselves as independent and individualistic. They’re not joiners by nature.

What do you think? Do you work better alone or in a team? Are you an introvert or an extravert?

Further reading: I've recently been trawling the archives of the now closed blog Introverted Church by Adam McHugh also the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture . And I've realised I'm really not a fraud at all. Adam was quoted in and linked to Susan Cain's NY Times.

Top pic from Kubrick's Dr Strangelove. Mid pic Jack Lemmon in The Apartment .

17 comments:

  1. very intersting post. I'm def more of an introvert, with some extreme extrovert tendencies. I wholeheartedly agree with you on brainstorming and working in groups. there is a time for everything, but generally I think the best ideas are generated alone and then perfected by bouncing them off other people and what they have to add.

    have you read 'the introvert advantage' by marti olsen laney? great book. opened my eyes and made living with myself much more pleasant.

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    1. I havent read that, Petra. I'l have to look it up. Thanks for the link! B

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    2. Really excited to read this book. I am an intelligent introvert and have struggled for years to "play their game," because the extroverts are so good at taking control.

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  2. i love this! i agree! i agree!
    i'm an extrovert fraud too. i spent years saying i was one, and a couple years ago i discovered that i wasn't at all and that was why i was so unhappy. go figure.

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    1. What was the moment you realised?

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    2. definitely when i went on a women's retreat with my church and spent most of it hiding in the bathroom BY MYSELF. when i got home i didn't want to see or speak to another living soul, except for barclay, for two weeks.

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    3. I'm so with you on this. Why is it that church vents are harder than say work events!?!

      I've hid in the bathroom at so many events.

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    4. oh, i have my theories. but when i say them it sounds like i don't like church. I LIKE CHURCH. but I HATE WOMEN'S RETREATS.

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    5. ha ha. I am SO with you.

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  3. I actually miss working in a team now that I work on my own!! Ahhh dear... my I do think that working on your own can be very productive and you can keep up the pace a lot quicker - oh and there isn't all that faff of someone thinking your idea won't work!... ;-)

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    1. I understand missing the team environment as sometimes you do need someone to bounce an idea off. But I think that idea 'bounce' should happen after you've developed the idea a fair bit first.

      I think the arrangement you and I have, meeting up frequently to discuss our projects, is great way to feel a part of a team while still be alone.

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  4. I'm a freelance writer, so I usually work alone. I like it A LOT. I used to work in a big company and hated the "brainstorm" meetings. Such waste of time and energy.

    I like this Steve Wozniak quote: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/01/18/woz-on-creativity-and-innovation/

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    1. I agree with liking it A LOT! I'm so glad I'm not alone in my pov of how wasteful this is. Wozniak is quoted in the above NY Times article as well. Thanks for the link.

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  5. I love your blog! This post is awesome!
    Check out my blog, write your opinion and maybe...follow?
    Where are you from?

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    1. Hey Lonela, I'm in Sydney.

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  6. I am the same. I work alone and I quite enjoy it. I love my time by myself and struggle without it but most people would think me extroverted to. 2 peas...in our separate pods

    Pixel Hazard | Bright Green Laces |

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