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Speak up for the Introverts! | Why We Shouldn’t Ignore the Quieter Voices

Thanks to Susan Cain’s book - 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking', we came to realise that this topic has real relevance to our industry.

Market Research, as a career choice, tends to attract individuals who possess a more introverted personality. This obviously does not mean to say that extroverts don’t have a place within the industry, but for tasks such as data analysis or scriptwriting, which usually require independent work, the introverted individual tends to fair better.

It is the extroverts however, who we tend to use for our samples in Market Research studies. When it comes to answering questions, sharing ideas or discussing opinions with a group, the extroverted personality is more likely to involve itself.

Essentially what we've noticed is a trend towards introverts researching extroverts.


What’s the problem?

We like opinions. Love them in fact. Hearing what the consumer thinks about a certain brand or new product is what we (the Market Researchers) are here for. What’s important for us as an industry is to make sure that we’re collecting the best and most useful information from these consumers. To do this, we must make sure that all voices are being heard, not just the loudest ones.

So how do we encourage the quieter voices/personalities to join our conversation?

It’s clear that face-to-face interview techniques or a focus group environment may struggle to get the most out of the introverted character. Let’s take focus groups for example. What can often happen in this situation, as in any group environment, is that the louder, more dominant figures tend to lead the conversation and subsequently influence the behaviour of the other members (usually unintentionally we should add).

What we need to offer is a comfortable setting for all personalities, where individuals can share opinions without the threat of “louder” characters dominating the conversation. We’ve all experienced first hand through the huge rise of the likes of Twitter and Facebook that online social forums appeal to many individuals,particularly the introverts, as a place to share thoughts and ideas in a way which is often limited in public forums. The online focus group method is a prime example of an effective way to encourage introverted personalities to share information more openly. This is a quieter, more independent platform which has greater appeal to the 'thinkers' among us.

What is also useful about online techniques is their ability to generate discussion from not only introverts, but extroverts as well. we all know how difficult it can be to convey tone through the medium of text. This challenge essentially levels the playing field in an online Research environment  There is no reason why those who prefer working in larger groups and leading conversations won’t respond just as well in the online environment.  Remember, what we’re seeking a balance between the two and online focus groups are one of the best available solutions to this problem.


Why can’t we just rely on the extroverts?

Susan Cain, author of 'Quiet', states "there is no correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas". To get the most out of people, we must allow them to develop and process information in an environment suitable to them.

It is often the case, Cain argues, that the most creative and innovative ideas come from introverted personalities (Charles Darwin and Mark Zuckerberg being prime examples). Working alone certainly isn’t a negative thing.  Solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity and many of us will produce our best work in more independent environments. It is becoming clear that we must back away from this culture of considering extroversion to be the most desirable character trait in others and in ourselves.


Considering your sample

In Research, we mainly use demographic and geographic information to select our target samples. Given what we now know about introversion/extroversion is it time we put greater focus on behavioural and personality factors? Should we consider introversion/extroversion to be just as important as age or gender?

Let’s start thinking about the ways we can achieve this. Which techniques will provide the most useful data from both character types? How can we find a balance between the two? What information are we failing to gather from the introverts?

Here at Face Facts,we tackle the problem through mixed mode research, a combination of online and offline techniques. When using this approach, we offer a variety of methods to suit different needs. Our mixed mode projects may involve online research alongside telephone interviews  or maybe a mixture of social methods combined with online discussion groups. There are certainly plenty of options available to Researchers and we  know that the industry can offer further solutions to this problem.

This topic is something we don’t hear enough about in Market Research so maybe it’s time to take action and speak up for the introverts!