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Opinion

Introverted talent in America, buried by the 'influence score'

Companies that analyze behavior on social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, can assign users an 'influence score' that basically rates how extroverted they are. I fear that an employer, looking at a low score, would miss the next Larry Page, the introvert CEO of Google.

By Jim Sollisch / October 7, 2011



Cleveland

There’s never been a worse time to be an introvert.

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It’s a good thing Albert Einstein, Mozart, Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Gandhi, and Jane Goodall weren’t born in the 1960s. If they were, by the time they were young adults, they might all be taking drugs for social anxiety disorder – and burying their contemplative genius with each dose.

In the late 1980s, drugs like Zoloft hit the market and social anxiety disorder was first recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the bible of psychiatry. In their medicated state, these introverts might have been more extroverted and less reflective, and it’s possible that their gifts might have stayed inside as their personalities turned outward.

About 25 percent of the population are introverts, but as many as 60 percent of gifted children are introverts. Introverts snag a disproportionate share of National Merit Scholarships, according to the Center for Applications of Psychological Type – despite the fact that their I.Q. scores are no higher on average than those of extroverts. Susan Cain, author of the blog “Quiet: The Power of Introverts,” cites studies showing that many of the most creative people in a wide range of fields are introverts who prefer not to work on teams.

Well, too bad. The extroverts have won the values battle. Probably because they talked louder and faster. More and more creative companies, filled with introverts, have re-organized into teams. More and more schools sit students in pods and assign projects to teams. And now introverts, who like to reflect before they speak and who are naturally more self-conscious than extroverts, have something else to worry about.

It’s called the "influence score." And having a low one could someday prove worse than having a low credit score. The influence score is the brainchild of companies with names like Klout and PeerIndex. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will.

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