Is the problem with Corporate Pharma MR that it is filled with Introverts?

I’ve been writing about that I think the Market Research function may be headed for oblivion. This topic was discussed at the recent PharmaMR conference in Parsippany NJ,(both in my presentation and others)  and now there is an article in Medical Marketing and Media  that picks up on the same themes If you haven’t read it, I do recommend it, although it’s focus is broad and it seems pretty depressing.

Although this article touches on many things including the BRIC countries and on sales force compensation, I want to focus back on primary market research that is intended to affect sales.  If you have read my earlier posts, you may be familiar with my argument, but I’ll repeat it for emphasis.

It is my contention that the internal market research function doesn’t recognize their own point of power – they don’t recognize the importance of the interaction in providing value and they don’t recognize the importance of innovation. 

Market Research departments pay lip service to the concept of “insight” but don’t know what to do to get better insights.  Instead they have gotten caught in a trap, a trap partially of their own making, that is now squeezing them harder and harder than ever before.  Until a few years ago, it didn’t hurt too much, but the cost cutting pressures have made everything more intense, until now it is starting to hurt and the potential endgame of oblivion is becoming more obvious.

An interesting exchange in the question and answer period after a key note speech at the PharmMR conference added something useful to the discussion so I want to highlight it.  The exchange started when a veteran corporate market researcher lamented that this conversation about how to improve Pharma MR had been recycled over and over again for 20 years or so with no change, so why did we think this time would be different?  In response, another corporate market researcher threw out an idea – how much of the problem was due to the fact that the field attracts introverts?

That made me think.  If I am right that at least part of the problem is that corporate market research departments aren’t recognizing that they need to value and improve the quality of their interactions, it makes perfect sense that introverts would be people who would have problems doing that.  Duh!  Introverts like spending time alone, thinking, rather than talking with others.  A typical introvert is drained with they spend lots of time with other people, and need time to recover.  Thus these introverted corporate market researchers may be setting up situations in which they don’t have to spend lots of time talking to other people.  It seems to make sense.

But let’s take it one step further. Are corporate Pharma Market Research Departments particularly vulnerable to being staffed with introverts because of the way MR is treated as a training ground for Marketing? (In my former career in packaged goods, this didn’t happen as often….)  Are the more extroverted colleagues likely to leave for Marketing, leaving their more introverted colleagues behind, making Corporate Pharma MR Departments even more likely to be staffed with introverts than even their non-Pharma Corporate brothers and sisters?

Readers, what do you think?  Are Pharma Corporate Market Research Departments filled with introverts?  If so, is that a problem?


4 responses to “Is the problem with Corporate Pharma MR that it is filled with Introverts?

  1. MR Depts may be filled with a greater share of introverts than the marketing dept., but that’s not necessarily a problem. Introverts, if their goal is to minimize their interaction with people, will be drawn into a field of numerical analysis, working with tabulations, and data. The best and the brightest of the company can be amoung these introverts.

    Its also true that those who are on the less creative end of the scale will also be drawn to MR as they will be able to partner with marketing and get more direction.

    If management desires to grooom marketers by having them to a stint in MR, they’ll have to recruit and sell the idea to their candidates. Meanwhile, the function needs a core of workers that will perform the required tasks. A mix of talent in MR would seem the best solution.

    So, let’s not run introverts out of town! We need them.

    Equally true is that a great market researcher will be a great marketer,

    Sorry, Karen, I don’t really see a problem, can’t subscribe to your premise.

    But, I could be wrong.



  2. Hi Karen:

    Hope all is well. I believe the situation is not so dire for Market Research. I see it as more akin to the burst of the housing bubble which happens every ~ 20 yrs. Resources for Market Research departments (pharma & otherwise) were growing rapidly and now they are declining to a more reasonable level. Yes, introvert and extrovert research professionals are working harder and soon they will be working smarter. Several professionals have already started saying “NO” to nonessential research, internal meetings to prepare for meetings, sexy travel to faraway places, routine & minimally used ATUs, etc…

    Organizations will always require information by which to make decisions. With reduction in resources, fewer funds will be available for primary market research; thus it is possible that introverts will become more highly regarded as generally they excel at desk research. In this scenario, it seems the introvert would simply need to learn how to run an internal focus group so as to align internal stakeholders.


  3. I find this topic very interesting. The main reason for that is that I am an introvert and have read a few books on this topic. Classic market researcher huh? I think it’s important to know yourself and how to take advantage of your strengths and find ways of managing or compensating for your weaknesses. I think some people confuse being an introvert with being meek or shy. They are not the same. I take in a lot of stimuli, more than most anyway. If there is too much to take in, I need to refill the tank. In other words, I need time to process it. That’s why when I go to a social gathering, it leaves me exhausted, just too much to take in. However, I am very comfortable speaking to a large group and that actually energizes me. I can use that ability to see things others find difficult to see as an asset. I just need to channel it in the right direction and spend it wisely.

    I also find that I have a strong need to try to figure things out…to process what is happening whether it’s to understand a buying process or to understand how someone perceives an ad campaign. Once I figure it out, I love to share that. It is extremely motivating to me. I guess that I have learned to be cautious that I don’t try to explain every nuance, but to really hone in on what the decision is and how the insights uncovered can help make that decision. It should always come back to this. Uncovering ‘fun facts’ might be fun at times, but we can’t do research for research’s sake. If we do this, our resources will dry up and we will become irrelevant.

    So, in my opinion, having introverts in your MR group doesn’t mean our departments are doomed. Quite the opposite. I think it’s how you use your own internal nature that will ultimately decide where we end up.

    • My sentiments exactly (even though I don’t know many people who might describe me as introverted)! I think the key is the ability to truly and deeply process observations, stimuli, findings, etc. (qualitative and quantitative). I think it is important in market research that things be well thought out (and challenged), rather than just having folks ‘push through’ and figure it out after the craziness subsides. By that time, it may be too late to make corrections.

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