My favorite article this week was Why Introverts Make Great Entrepreneurs, (WSJ) for three reasons: 1) it dispels the myth (which I held) that an entrepreneur must be extraverted; 2) it summarizes the relative strengths that introverts bring to business leadership, which can apply equally well to decision making in general and 3) It quotes Susan Cain, the author of one of my favorite books of the past few years, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking“.
According to Webster’s, an entrepreneur is “one who organizes, manages, and assumes the risks of a business or enterprise”. In other words, they make business decisions characterized by risk and, I will add, uncertainty. The article and the book are helpful in identifying the typical traits of introverts and extraverts and how these can manifest as strengths and weakness with respect to decision making. Introverts are said to have several critical advantages:
- Careful, critical thinkers: seek out relevant and available information before making a decision; may be less prone to confirmation bias
- Independent thought/action: may be less prone to groupthink, peer pressure that can compromise integrity and objectivity
- Imagination and creativity: can create new alternatives and implementation strategies
- Discipline & focus: can ignore distractions and irrelevant inputs and invest time researching and hypothesis-testing before reaching a conclusion
- Careful observation: can identify alternatives, linkages, correlations, risk and opportunities
- Listening skills: contributes to all of the above by helping to acquire more information
On the other hand, introverts can be challenged in their decision making by things that extraverts find more natural. From personal experience, I can vouch for wanting to minimize networking and the dreaded small talk. This can obviously make it harder to get information and exercise those listening skills. Introverts can be overly risk averse, while extraverts can be more motivated to seek rewards and overcome obstacles. Extraverts are better at dealing with information overload; introverts need to avoid analysis paralysis and know when to pull the trigger on an important decision.
Of course, the introvert vs. extravert distinction is a soft one. An introvert can act extraverted when necessary to achieve an important goal and an extravert can likewise act introverted. I think the important takeaway is that we need to be aware of our individual strengths and weakness when making an important decision, so we can leverage the former and compensate for the latter. Indeed the having a diverse team to make the decision, with people across the intro-extra spectrum may be the most effective decision strategy of all.