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Susan Cain, Hudson River Valley, New York
Introverts have it tough because workplaces often favor the gregarious. But Susan Cain, author of the best-selling new book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, has galvanized a movement against society's blanket favoritism toward loud-talking, brainstorm-favoring extroverts. "There's a deep-seated bias in our culture, but we haven't had the language for it," Cain says. She's giving us the words—and the data. Often, thinking alone is better, she says: "All these brainstorming studies show that individuals, extroverts included, produce better ideas when they're riffing alone than when they're in a group." By elucidating introversion's benefits, Cain, who has shared her insights at Google, Microsoft, and the U.S. Treasury, is inspiring a reexamination of corporate structure and processes, spurring change through the classic public-intellectual approach: by encouraging us to think. The results could be anything from more private work spaces—open offices make people less productive, she says—to a generation of introverts that understands that solo time isn't just okay but also beneficial.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2012 issue of Fast Company magazine.