Tag Archives: diversity

Are you Living in Itopia Like 84.51°?

Are you Living in Itopia Like 84.51°?

As I was finishing my new book Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces, I was fortunate to be introduced to an introvert advocate and change agent named Ryan Showalter. Ryan is Director of Consulting at a data analytics company in Cincinnati, OH named 84.51°. And he is an introverted leader.

One day, he was struck by the courage of a young man in his company who shared his difficulty in speaking in a large group. So, Ryan approached him after the session they were in and praised him for speaking up honestly. And after several conversations, they decided to start a group for introverts. They creatively named it Itopia, and are very pleased with how much it has now grown. In fact, it has become part of their diversity and inclusion initiative, fostering belonging, with an emphasis on introversion-extroversion dynamics.

I am continually impressed by 84.51°’s commitment to educating people about introversion and knocking down biases. For example, one best practice that came out of the Itopia group has been a “Flip the Script” handout. It’s given to all managers which provides specific examples of what to say and do when communicating with introverts. Also, the document is shared in Creating Introvert-Friendly Workplaces. And Ryan explains more about it in a special edition of this recent company-sponsored podcast called The Uplow’d. You can listen here.

Here are a few other highlights from the podcast:

“How can companies benefit from introvert strengths?”

  • Introverts go deep with projects and people, leading to strong results.
  • Engaged listening and focused conversations mean they create solutions that are built on collaboration.
  • They prepare for meetings and conversations.
  • They take quiet time and can work alone. Examples of great discoveries – the Apple Computer by Steve Wozniak, Grace Hopper and COBOL, etc.
  • They are calm and humble.

“How can extroverts become allies for introverts?”

  • Get to know yourself and your own biases.
  • Get to know Introverts on your team and ask them about their own work style and tendencies so they feel supported.
  • Set them up by helping them to prepare.
  • Speak up when you see introverts being passed over.
  • Look at your practices like hiring, leadership, and communication. Then ask introverts how they can be adapted to be more introvert-friendly.

Ryan provided many real-world examples. Also, Itopia is looking for other organizations that are organizing introverts in the effort to change our workplaces. Feel free to contact me at jennifer@jenniferkahnweiler.com and I can introduce you to Ryan.

We had a lively discussion and ended the session with a lightning round of questions. Dave, our interviewer asked us to complete the answers in 51 seconds. We just made it!  When he asked about my favorite ice cream, I didn’t hesitate. Any flavor of Grater’s ice cream! And anyone who has lived or visited Cincinnati (headquarters for the company) will know what I mean. In fact, I think ice cream is probably one area of commonality introverts and extroverts can both agree on.

Remembering Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr.


The world lost a great man last week. Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. passed away suddenly. His family, church,  professional colleagues and hundreds of friends spilled out into the street at Friendship Baptist Church to honor him on what would have been his 69th birthday.

I had the rare privilege of knowing Dr. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr. in recent years as a fellow Berrett-Koehler author and colleague. We had a several thoughtful conversations and I was impressed by his openness to learning new marketing approaches for getting his messages out into the world.

Roosevelt was  a trailblazer in diversity, a past Dean of Clark Atlanta Business School, Secretary of Morehouse College and a widely known consultant and thought leader. I remember hearing him speak to a group of HR managers at a local Society of Human Resource Management meeting where he presented some provocative new ideas about how we must embrace differences and reject assimilation. Do not ignore the issues of race and gender, he said.  Dr. Thomas redefined diversity as a business issue that speaks to the bottom line.

Roosevelt’s stellar record and significant contributions to redefining diversity could fill volumes. He was the author of seven published books and recognized by the Wall Street Journal as one of the top ten consultants in the country. And his academic credentials are no less impressive; Morehouse College Phi Beta Kappa and Summa Cum Laude in Mathematics and Education, an MBA from the University of Chicago and a Doctorate from what one of fraternity brothers jokingly called  “The Morehouse of the North,” Harvard.

As the sun poured in on that packed sanctuary, It was obvious from the many heartfelt tributes that Roosevelt made a true difference in this world. One mourner quoted an African proverb, “You are only dead when you are forgotten”, expressing what we all felt; he will never be forgotten. His lovely daughter, April encouraged us to take his baton and take action.  And while friends and family  noted his numerous achievements and incredible work ethic, what they spoke of most was his humility and the way he listened before he spoke. He was the epitome of an introverted leader and quiet influencer.

Roosevelt, may I savor your silent humility and call it up before I have an urge to “talk out” my thoughts. Thank you for that gift and for the many others you bestowed upon the world. RIP.