Friday, 9 March 2012

Personality and Productivity

In a recent book Susan Cain tries to rebalance the current obsession with extrovert personalities, by illustrating “the Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking”.

Just as the fashion industry has been promoting a major slimming industry by employing only skinny models, the entertainment business is creating a similar big business in personality spinning through self-help books and coaching seminars on assertiveness, social skills, team playing and many other activities aimed at making us all extroverts.

There is nothing wrong with the extroversion and slimming industries as long as they profit from such passing fads and illusions without damaging our health. However, Cain claims that contrary to conventional wisdom introverts are in fact significantly more productive and creative than extroverts. Therefore, if that is true, the current bias in educational pedagogy to promote extroversion through group work and other socializing techniques might threaten our children´s future productivity.

Nevertheless, from my personal experience, I am inclined to favor the hypothesis that personality has little or no role in explaining individual productivity in most professions (with the obvious exception of showbiz). And, this might be so regardless of whether higher individual productivity is achieved by effort (endurance) or creativity (entrepreneurship).

So, until psychologists and biologists provide us with sufficient data on the link between productivity and personality the jury is still out to decide on this matter, and parents and educators should be careful about embarking on fads to manipulate personality in whatever direction they like more. Education is more about diversity than conformity.

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