Two weeks ago, I got the most comments ever on the topic of whether introverts dominate pharmaceutical market research and whether that has created a problem or not. The gist of the comments follow:
1.Yes, there are a lot of introverts on the client side of pharma market research (one estimate from a supplier- 98%). Others noted lots of introverts on the supplier side as well, especially in non-sales positions.
2. No, its not a problem if introverts dominate because either you need a mix of people or that introverts are really, really smart people.
Full disclosure here: I am an introvert (mostly). I need to recharge my batteries after being with people and I need to prepare myself to join a group of people. Obviously, I also agree that introverts are really smart people and may well be the best people for the job of corporate market research.
BUT – similarly to the person who raised this issue at the PharmaMR Conference, I think there may be a nugget of an insight here. Bear with me as a reconstruct this argument.
As part of trying to cope with the various pressures facing the pharmaceutical industry (decreased reimbursement, poor R&D productivity, increasing regulatory requirements) Corporate Market Research departments have taken a hit in headcount and budget. While this may be a cyclical phenomena (as suggested by one reader), it seems like a (potentially permanent) structural change to me. This is at least partially because of the two trends of outsourcing and automation.
As I stated in an earlier post, McKinsey identified three types of work – the two that are most relevant for this discussion are transactional and interactional. Transactional work is repetitive work that is more easily outsourced and/or automated, so is most likely to go away as a source of employment in the developed world. Interactional work has a stronger future in the developed world.
So, I see a potential problem if the corporate market research departments are mostly populated by introverts, who feel best when they spend most of their time alone, but the future is brighter for work that depends on interaction with people. If corporate market researchers don’t spend enough time in interaction, if they follow their own tendencies to avoid interaction, then they may not be doing that part of their job as well as would serve them (and the companies they work for).
If you agree with this, then I would suggest two different courses of action:
1. On a personal level, if you are an introvert, give some thought to how you should push yourself to increase your interaction with your clients (or for those you supervise, same thing)
2. On a department or industry level, what kinds of things can be done to support introverts in the important work of interaction?
I will be posting ideas in the next few weeks so stay tuned. As always I welcome your comments.