Although I never had great aspirations of owning my own business when I was younger, I’ve now been at the helms of Personality Junkie for over a decade. When I first started this site, I didn’t really think of it as a business per se, but more as a creative platform for sharing my ideas. As time passed and the site continued to grow, however, I began taking the business and marketing side of things a bit more seriously, including topics like SEO, advertising, user experience, etc.
Despite my business-related curiosities, I still find myself experiencing a sense of reluctance and resistance toward much of the business advice I encounter. I’ve also noticed that other intuitive (I) introverts (N)—INFP, INFJ, INTP, and INTJ types—often exhibit a similar response. INFJs and INFPs, in particular, seem disposed to a gut reaction of “icky” or “no thanks” to all things business. In this post, we’ll touch on reasons for INFP, INFJ, INTP and INTJ wariness toward business and marketing careers, maxims, and practices.
“Business is Too Mundane & Uninspiring”
Running a business typically requires much in the way of practical maintenance. Bills need to get paid, ledgers kept, floors swept, buildings maintained, etc. Even online businesses require a fair amount of technical attention and upkeep, not to mention customer service. Hence, from a Myers-Briggs perspective, operating a business might be seen as better suited for sensors (S), that is, for types who enjoy handling practical tasks and details.
A counterpoint to this might suggest that intuitive business owners aren’t required to do the routine work because they can simply delegate it to others. Doing so can free up more time to do the things they enjoy, such as developing the company’s identity, vision, product ideas, etc. But overseeing employees is not without its headaches, which can make introverts, in particular, reluctant to add staff. Indeed, it’s not always clear to IN types whether they should continue juggling all the business tasks themselves, or if they should take the risk of hiring more employees.
The notion that business careers are “uninspiring” is also commonplace among IN types. Again, I think this largely stems from the belief that a business, once established, is predominantly focused on maintenance rather than perpetual creative development. Because N types have a strong desire for ongoing creative activity, many are terrified of drowning in a sea of mundane tasks and details. Indeed, this is why many are enamored with art and freelancing, roles which allow them to prioritize creative freedom above all else.
Beyond the Bottom Line
In today’s climate of “get rich quick” thinking, it’s not unusual to find individuals or businesses focusing more on marketing than on the development of high quality goods or services. If money talks, as is commonly believed, then the bottom line is what matters most. It’s easy to see how extraverts and sensing types, for whom the material world is most real and salient, might be drawn to this mode of thinking.
Introversion in combination with intuition is generally repelled by such practices, viewing hucksters and profiteers with great suspicion, even scorn. For most INs, a rich and meaningful inner life is the foremost priority.
It’s therefore rare to find INs for whom money is the primary motivator of their work. Most consider things like truth, beauty, justice or creativity to be of greater importance, especially early in life, when idealism is at its peak.
Extraverted vs. Introverted Values & Metrics
Even INs who own a business may find themselves at odds with conventional business maxims and practices. This is likely due to the fact that, especially in the U.S., there’s a marked bias in the direction of extraversion and sensing,
One example of this bias is the inordinate emphasis on customer data, trends, and characteristics. For all intents and purposes, the inner life, tastes, and desires of the business owner doesn’t matter; the customer—however quantified and objectified—is king!
Maybe this makes sense if profit is the chief concern. But as we’ve seen, this is rarely the case for IN types. Typically, if INs are involved in an enterprise, it’s because they have a strong personal investment in it. As Elizabeth Gilbert (INFP) candidly remarks in her recent book, Big Magic:
I did not write this book for you…I wrote this book for my own pleasure, because I truly enjoy thinking about the subject of creativity. It’s enjoyable and useful for me to meditate on this topic. If what I’ve written ends up helping you that’s great…but at the end of the day, I do what I do because I like doing it.
Bravo to you Ms. Gilbert for giving other INs permission to listen to themselves rather than feeling like they haven’t done their due diligence if they haven’t personally interviewed every last customer on their email list.
For IN types, basing decisions solely on the whims and wants of the almighty customer can feel like selling one’s soul. What about truth, artistry, personal values or the greater good?
When confronted by the default value of the business world (i.e., sales), INs’ defenses are quickly incited. This is why introverted artists are leery of marketing and commercial art, roles that can suppress creative freedom in favor of what’s trendy, popular, or sensational.
There’s also a concern that undue extraverted focus will produce clunky or uninspired products. Some business gurus seem to believe that, given enough customer data, one could feasibly forge the perfect product or business. By contrast, INs are inclined to believe that a business that should not lead with data, but with a solid portfolio of values, beliefs, and intuitions. They sense that over-focusing on metrics and externalities will disrupt their alignment with the deeper purpose of their work.
At times, INs may try to override these instincts in order to implement conventional business advice. Such attempts often fall flat, however, if it keeps them from doing what they truly enjoy. Because INs frequently reflect on the degree to which their lives are aligned with their values and ideals, they are usually quick to identify possible disruptors.
Time and again I’ve watched INs struggle to accomplish things that, deep down, they really don’t want to do. Others may be telling them that all “successful” business owners are doing x, y, and z, but if those recommendations are incompatible with what really motivates them, INs will struggle to see them through to completion. Again, outsourcing unsavory tasks might be worth considering, but it’s not always clear if and when this is the right move.
Overlaps with Holland Career Interests
With respect to Holland / RIASEC career interests, research indicates that INFP, INFJ, INTP and INTJ types often exhibit some combination of Investigative and Artistic interests.
Investigative types enjoy working in scholarly or scientific fields aimed at exploring truth and knowledge. They prefer working with ideas and theories rather than practical applications. Artistic types also enjoy working with ideas, but often with greater emphasis on their aesthetic and perceptive aspects.
Business and marketing are associated with Holland’s Enterprising domain, and to some extent with the Conventional domain. So it’s not surprising that Investigative or Artistic IN types are inclined to avoid business and marketing careers.
All of this is not to say that IN types will always be at odds with, or can never find success in, business and marketing careers. It’s important to remember that type preferences are at least partially malleable and can evolve over time. Indeed, I would hope that INs who’ve reached middle age will have shed at least some of the biases and misconceptions of their youth, including those related to business and marketing.
That said, there remains a disproportionate emphasis on ES business practices which can be discouraging for IN business owners. The truth is that any phenomenon, including a business, entails both ES and IN elements. The ES elements comprise the visible and structural exterior and the IN elements the intangible, energetic interior. Ideally, every business owner would devote significant time and resources to both.
While some artists and investigators may eventually opt to grant more attention to the business and marketing side of their work, others may not. And that’s perfectly fine. Business is merely one of myriad paths for developing and integrating the ES aspects of their personality.
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