Medium 9781626563056

The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together

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Better Together

FDR and Eleanor. Mick and Keith. Jobs and Woz. There are countless examples of introvert-extrovert partnerships who make brilliant products, create great works of art, and even change history together. But these partnerships don't just happen. They demand wise nurturing.

The key, says bestselling author Jennifer Kahnweiler, is for opposites to stop emphasizing their differences and use approaches that focus them both on moving toward results. Kahnweiler's first-of-its-kind practical five-step process helps introverts and extroverts understand and appreciate each other's wiring, use conflicts to spur creativity, enrich their own skills by learning from the other, and see and act on things neither would have separately. Kahnweiler shows how to perform the delicate balancing act required to create a whole that is exponentially greater than the sum of its parts.

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Chapter 1 Who Are These Unlikely Duos?

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One going up, one coming down

But we seem to land on common ground

When things go wrong we make corrections

To keep things moving in the right direction

Try to fight it but I’m telling you, Jack,

It’s useless, opposites attract.

—Oliver Leiber, Songwriter for Paula Abdul1

Genius opposites are partnerships made up of introverts and extroverts in all types of combinations. These include executives and admins, creatives and their collaborators, sales people and office support personnel, project managers and their sponsors, and more.

These powerful teams have a unique chemistry and achieve outcomes they never could achieve alone. But they take work to succeed, and the magic rises from their differences. Although their styles are divergent, the results of their collaboration look like they came from a single mind. Their relationships are most successful when they stop focusing on their differences and use approaches that move them toward results.

 

Chapter 2 How to Mix Oil and Water—The Genius of Opposites Process and Quiz

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Are you ready to move toward extraordinary results with your opposite? As tempting as it may seem to fix them first, your first step is to look at yourself. Take stock of how you see the dynamics of your partnership playing out. What is working, and what needs some adjusting from your perspective? Ideally, your opposite is also willing to take an honest assessment and feels motivated like you to move toward a new genius level of performance.

One way to assess your partnership and to begin to move toward that new level of performance is to take this short quiz. It’s designed to help you evaluate how well you interact with your partner and perform on the job using the five steps discussed in Chapter 1 of this book.

Use the quiz as a way to assess your progress as you apply the ideas in the book. Based on the characteristics that set genius opposites apart, you will learn what you have in common with highly effective opposites.

If you are an introvert, envision your interaction with a work colleague who is an extrovert. When answering the following questions as an extrovert, envision your interaction with a work colleague who is an introvert. If you are not sure or feel you are closely tied between the two, review chapter 1 for some clues.

 

Chapter 3 Accept the Alien

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“Accept that your partner is a pain in the ass. Accept that you are a pain in the ass, so the two of you are made for each other. Accept that what makes you furious about your partner is wrapped up with what excites you. What you most love and what drives you crazy is the same thing. Just on a bad hair day.” 6

—Joshua Wolf Shenk, author of Powers of Two

Accept the Alien: You can’t change your opposite, but you can understand them. Once you are able to accept this fact, you are in for much less stress.

Anthony Morris and Errol la Grange run a growing online training organization in Melbourne, Australia. These opposites’ creative ideas explode like popcorn.

Anthony is a thoughtful and mild-mannered introvert who sent me fully thought-out responses to my questions about their partnership. Errol is a smiling extrovert who shows up in daily Facebook posts, meeting people around the world. He thrives on going to coffee shops and chatting with just about anyone. Their complementary differences showed up when I met them both for the first time. Anthony wore what he called his “good ole brown pull-on shoes” purchased from a local shoe store, and Errol stood out in his turquoise cowboy boots from San Francisco, making for a great conversation starter.

 

Chapter 4 Bring on the Battles

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“We often hate each other, but it’s the kind of hatred that’s like flint and steel—the sparks that come out make it worth the while.” 11

—Penn Jillette on his long-time partner in magic, Teller

Bring on the Battles—see disagreement as necessary to arrive at better outcomes because you challenge each other to come up with better solutions together than you would alone.

Back in 1956, Dr. Alice Mary Stewart, a physician and epidemiologist, came out with a shocking article published by the British medical journal The Lancet. Her article cited data showing that the X-rays taken of pregnant mothers actually caused childhood cancer. Sadly, the medical establishment did not immediately act upon her findings. Instead, it took twenty-five years for doctors to stop X-raying pregnant women.

Through those years, she worked closely with George Kneale, a statistician who was instrumental to her success. He helped her to fuel her determination and persistence, leading to the eventual ending of a tragically harmful medical practice.

 

Chapter 5 Cast the Character

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“If I irritated him by a certain methodical slowness in my mentality, that irritation served only to make his own flame-like intuitions and impressions flash up more vividly and swiftly. Such was my humble role in our alliance.”

—Watson, speaking of Sherlock Holmes16

Cast the Character: Know each person’s role in a scenario and cast them so that you bring out your opposite’s best. Opposites share the credit no matter what role they take.

One of the largest Internet companies in the world, Alibaba, has been called the equivalent of PayPal, Amazon, and eBay all rolled into one. Its founder and former CEO, Jack Ma, is the heart and soul of the company. It hasn’t been unusual for this extrovert to dress up in costume and sing songs from The Lion King to Alibaba’s more than sixteen thousand employees.

In 2013, Ma turned the CEO’s reins over to his trusted partner, Jonathon Lu, who is described as Ma’s “corporate alter-ego.” Lu is used to operating behind the scenes. Lu said, “We complement each other very well. He looks forward and outside of the box; I focus on the present.”17

 

Chapter 6 Destroy the Dislike

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“We were often angry with one another. At other times we were very warm. I think we shared a strong sense of morality about films that offended us, either by their content or their general stupidity.”

—Television host Roger Ebert on his relationship with cohost Gene Siskel27

Destroy the Dislike: When you respect each other and act like friends you can talk openly and have fun.

For many years, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were the only sources for film criticism on television. But Siskel and Ebert couldn’t stand each other. When you watched them converse and give their classic “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” about that month’s new releases, you were guaranteed to see sparks fly. They often disagreed, and clips of their interviews reveal a complex relationship. They bickered, laughed, and raised their voices, both on camera and off.

In one outtake, Roger, the extrovert, tells introverted Gene to “sound a little excited” and Gene tells Roger to “sound a little less excited.”28 It gets personal when Roger, who describes himself as not “the shy, retiring type,” seems comfortable winging the intros and accuses Gene of being unable to ad lib.

 

Chapter 7 Each Can’t Offer Everything

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“Though the two men had strikingly different temperaments—Roosevelt’s original and active nature at odds with Taft’s ruminative and judicial disposition—their opposing qualities actually proved complementary, allowing them to forge a powerful camaraderie and rare collaboration.”

—Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin on the relationship of opposites William Howard Taft and Teddy Roosevelt38

Each Can’t Offer Everything: Know that each one of you is incapable of offering everything and that for true diversity you work in concert to provide the widest range of options to others.

Stephanie and Jane work together in a video production company. Stephanie is definitely the more introverted of the two. They both say how much their differences drive the success of their shoots and ongoing relationships with clients.

Stephanie explains, “We discovered how well our personalities work together first through our video production duties. Jane always made the client feel at ease and answered any questions while I would make sure all the equipment was fine-tuned and ready. The complementary traits continued to benefit our team as we added more tasks to our workload, such as sales and administration.

 

Chapter 8 Keep Your Eye on the Results

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“We have such different ways of seeing the world and it is magnificent!” said extroverted Olivia about working with her introverted partner Henry.

Getting to that place doesn’t just happen by wanting it. Creating extraordinary results with your opposite entails a lot of frustration and confusion before the joys of shared outcomes emerge.

Keeping your relationship vital and active—not just coasting—is the goal. Just as careful synchronization can lead to strong partnerships, getting tangled in your differences can lead to disastrous outcomes.

So remember that both of you always need to keep your eye on the results and not confuse the outcome with the process. The outcome is the shared goal you are both moving toward. The process is how you both get there. With I/E opposites, it is never the same way for both people.

Throughout the course of your relationship, you should both continually come back to the big question: “What is the common goal we want to emerge from all of this?”

 

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