I facilitate workshops on lateral thinking, creativity and innovation. At a recent session I was asked whether I had ever tried separating extroverts from introverts in a brainstorm. I had to admit that I had never done this and the idea at first seemed strange. After all, diversity is one of the key elements for success in brainstorming – so why split people into their personality type? The argument for doing it is that the extroverts, who like to speak first and think second, will drown out the introverts, who like to think carefully before contributing.

A little later I ran a creative thinking session for a major pharmaceutical company and I decided to try this approach. First I read out the definitions of extrovert and introvert as given on Wikipedia. I then asked people to self-select into which group they fitted. It is important to stress at this stage that there is no judgement that one group is any way better than the other – they are just different in their approaches. Happily about half of the people fell into each group. So we split them into these two personality types.

We then did some advanced brainstorming using SCAMPER and ‘What if….?’ methods. It worked well. The extrovert group were lively and active with plenty of strong personalities and good ideas. The introvert group was a little quieter but came up with ideas that were at least as good and possibly more radical than the extroverts. In the analysis and feedback session the extroverts had noticed no difference from a regular brainstorm session. However, the introverts said that they much preferred the arrangement because they were not dominated by noisy extroverts. So it was an interesting experiment that seemed to work for brainstorm workshops. It makes me wonder what other work situations might benefit from splitting these two groups.