Propagation vs. Consolidation

A thought/observation/idea that’s been becoming more and more important in my perceptions of reality, social relationships, etc., comes out of a lot of reading about Myers-Briggs and watching various real life events unfold around me.

In particular, it is an idea that grows out of the difference between extraversion and introversion in different human personalities.  Now, this dichotomy–which is the only aspect of Myers-Briggs that seems to find support throughout the psychological community–tends to have some profound impacts upon how people approach the world.  As Jung would have it, extraverts are people who tend to adapt to the world by propagating themselves in it.  To do this, they are constantly moving and building new relationships in a very prolific way.

In contrast, introverts adapt to the world by taking external stimuli in and reflecting upon it for a while, thereby consolidating their inner (and dominant) world before seeking out new stimulation.  In contrast to the prolific extraverts constantly creating a web of external relationships, introverts devour the world and construct their own situated and smaller monopoly of relationships, over which they have far more power and control.

These different approaches lead to some very different results not only in how people interact with the world and how they are affected by it, but also in how they perceive change in the world and how they try to create such changes.

For an extravert, who sees the external world as the vast majority of reality, building ever new links and relationships to new things is a way of having access to more and more levers of power.   It allows them to have an impact on an ever larger area, even if their impact becomes more and more diffuse.

However, one might note that this web is never just a one-way street.  If you are connected to a multitude of things–it also means that you can be affected by a multitude of things–and the more things you are connected to–in an absolute sense–the more likely you are constantly going to be called on to endure various incidents.

In contrast, introverts don’t so much have a web of connections–although they may have a few–but rather are more about building up their own personal little vehicle to drive around reality in.  Over time, this vehicle can obtain more power and features and gadgets (and weapons), but it is often limited to travelling on the road network that it has built up, which is often FAR MORE limited in what it connects to than what the far more omnipresent extraverted network would be.  On the other hand, while travelling along such a network, the introvert is relatively free of external attachments.  They move from place to place on the network, and can endure/enjoy the bad/good weather and scenery in such places without really being drawn into peculiarities or issues of the particular locations.

Obviously, both of these approaches have their benefits and drawbacks, and these analogies I’ve constructed are but one instance of how you can employ these ideas to understand reality.  Another instance–a concrete one–came up just this morning as I realized that when it comes to instituting real change in society, you often need to employ a lot of discourse(talk) in the social world to spread new ideas to a large audience, thereby opening up the mental and political space for implementing this new idea.  Such an activity is a kind of propagation and an extraverted thing to do.
However, in order to really capitalize on this new space, you need to then consolidate the original ideas in the form of institutions or institutional change in a concrete manner, or else all this talk–when people get tired of listening–will just collapse back to the earlier state of affairs.  This kind of consolidation, however, is  an introverted approach to change.  It is an accretion of broader ideas into something more tangible, but usually more limited than the wider external discourse.

Thus, in the end, the final moral of this episode is to note that real power and change comes from combing introverted and extraverted adaptations to reality in mutually-beneficial ways.  Usually, this means getting different kinds of people together so that they can combine both strategies in self-reinforcing ways–but they also need to recognize that these kinds of strategies complement each other–rather than negating each other–and people must be flexible and cogent in their application.

Otherwise, you see situations where extraverts have a million different ways they could go–but they don’t get very far because they are tugged simultaneously in too many directions—or you have introverts who have the ability to pick up and move–but who have nowhere to go because they haven’t paid attention to building their network of connections.

So build your teams, fuckers, and build them wisely.

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About Prof. Woland

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10 Responses to Propagation vs. Consolidation

  1. Ms-Frazzeled-Danson says:

    I like your analogy.

    Does it work like that in real life, do you think?

  2. tricstmr says:

    I do think it works like that. Changing gender norms–creating acceptance of homosexuality–etc… things like that require both external social discursive work as well as then the implementation of concrete institutional changes.. And the two feed upon each other.. as you build up the larger institutional framework–then you can venture further out to make broader discursive claims, etc…

    I think historical examples substantiate this.. I know lots of stuff in the history of technology does… Institutions and technological systems just don’t get thrown out and stick out of the blue–they are constructed in a much broader discursive realm–and then are instituted in a kind of consolidation of CERTAIN ideas.. this becomes the new foundation then…

    Good engineering requires both types also… or at least requires attention to both realms…

  3. Billious says:

    More thoughtful response coming later, but initial response: very insightful. As an accomplished extrovert, I’ve never *gotten* introverts. I can befriend them, and in some cases successfully draw them out (and have always thought of that as a service, rather than an intrusion), but get in their heads? No way…

    • tricstmr says:

      Cool. What I would say here is that the introversion/extraversion split is a place where the golden rule “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” doesn’t actually work. It is rather, an instance where a respect for “pluralism” or diversity is called for–an acknowledgement that some people do things totally differently and although it may totally not be your thing, you can dig that this is just how they are…

      As for drawing them out–that is often a good thing for introverts–but only if it isn’t overdone. For example–I’m happy to go out with a group–but if someone tried to force me to do Karaoke–I will resist mightily and just refuse… If I, were somehow threatened enough to actually have to go through with it–and this would have to involve threats of physical violence–you can be certain that after that point in time, I would find a way to respond by ending that person…

      Anyway.. I await your response.. and I might add–that I have long wondered if C. the Knife might be an introvert–perhaps not a strong one–but still one…

  4. Dom says:

    These are the types of thoughts I find fascinating. I’ve always been very strongly introverted and there has been times that it has worked to my disadvantage. But playing in bands since I was very young has enlightened me to the importance of having several individual thought processes focused on the same goal. Military leaders, business men, career criminals and petty street gangs all have a similar layout to their hierarchy. Which always includes high ranking advisers specifically picked for that job.

    The power of connections is probably at the top of the list of things not to ignore. I recall several times where I knew a guy who knew a guy who was able to widen my view of opportunities.

    Aside from using other people’s extroverted personalities to help your business grow; do you think its possible for a introvert who is self aware to learn and mimic extroverted behaviors for a better chance at success?

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