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Susan Cain’s opening HOW Design Live keynote on the hidden power of introverts

Susan Cain is a researcher, storyteller, and is insatiably curious about human nature. I was beyond excited when we were able to secure Susan as our opening Keynote at HOW Design Live 2018. Her quiet, soothing temperament was the perfect kick-off to 4 days of inspiration, motivation and personal fulfillment, as were her insights on the hidden power of introverts.


Susan’s keynote touched on three main points: 1. Rethink Personality. 2. Rethink Creativity. 3. Rethink leadership.


Rethink Personality.


Her keynote began with a personal childhood summer camp story that included a cheer we’ve likely all heard “R-O-W-D-I-E”. I know. I couldn’t type it without singing it in my head either. This short illustration prompted us all to think about our own personalities – and ask the question “Are you an introvert, an extrovert, or an ambivert?” Cain shared that two out of three people are introverts. She shared a slide about a party of people and asked us how we might feel after two hours. Introverts typically will want to recharge and have low batteries. Extroverts, on the other hand, are recharged and ready for what’s next. Some people are in the middle, those are the ambiverts – the lucky people who have the best of both worlds.


Rethink Creativity.


Susan then gave insight into “rethinking creativity” and shared about how as a designer we’re always looking to stay in the sweet spot as long as possible. Companies need to have a yin and yang. Then, the discussion turned to business meetings. Those dreaded business meetings where “in a typical large meeting, 3 people do 70% of the talking”. We’ve all been there. The question then is “How should we run meetings differently?”


CAIN shares HOW INTROVERTS CAN make their voice known



    • Figure out the questions you want to ask ahead of time


    • Then speak up first when sharing ideas


    • Don’t curb your enthusiasm



CAIN shares HOW EXTROVERTS CAN set themselves apart



    • Curb your enthusiasm


    • Stop being the first one to speak up always and then dominate the entire conversation





Rethink Leadership.




Susan encouraged leaders to step out of their comfort zone. She reminded us that “The loudest people in the room are not always natural leaders.” There is strength in leading “quietly”. “There is zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” It was validating to hear the audience applaud to these comments from Susan.


Susan left with us these take-away’s:



    • Enter, Exit, return to your comfort zone


    • Speak up about your quiet side


    • Groom an unlikely leader


    • Take the Quiet Revolution Personality test


    • Know what’s in YOUR suitcase (What makes you unique and validates who you are inside)



“There’s no correlation between being quiet and ambition”  




Susan Cain believes that society dramatically undervalues the talents of introverts, and the creative possibilities that ensue when introverts and extroverts truly respect and understand each other. In her bestselling books, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and QUIET POWER: The Secret Strengths of Introverts, Susan explores ways for schools and companies to harness the talents of introverts, whose input no organization can afford to waste. Susan’s TED talk has been viewed over 19 million times, and was named by Bill Gates one of his all-time favorite talks.



Susan’s favorite activities are reading, writing, lounging around cafés, and traveling the world with her family. Lately, she’s also been on a tennis kick. A few times a year, she tries to like cooking. She uses a lot of old-fashioned expressions. She is insatiably curious about human nature.

To Susan, one of the best things in the world is that sublime moment when a writer, artist, or musician manages to express something they’ve always felt but never articulated, or at least never quite so beautifully.


I’m Amy Conover – total Susan Cain fangirl – and am thrilled to have met her, and to have shared her insights with our HOW Design Live audience. I hope you enjoyed it!


–Amy Conover, Content Manager, HOW Design Live