Are you an innie or an outie?

A good project management team will have its share of introverts and extraverts, as least if Dr. Brian Little is in control of the casting.

Little, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said it is an interesting collision of the two that will make a project work.

“You can see the dance (of the introverts and extraverts) at your offices everyday,” he told a group attending a recent Toronto symposium on Project Management, co-ordinated by Solutions Network.

He noted the differences in the extraverts and introverts are vast, but that those same differences will combine to make a better project at the end of the day.

Little explained that each person works to be at his or her optimum level of arousal (OLA). He added that extraverts are at risk of sinking into a lower level of arousal because they are more excited naturally, and therefore it takes more to keep them at an elevated level.

“Driving to Toronto from Ottawa is a car containing one extravert and one introvert. Typically it’s the extravert driving and she or he drives in a way to keep the OLA up,” he explained, adding that extraverts tend to get their way, at least in the short term.

“Extraverts get their way because neurologically they’re better designed to beat the shit out of you,” he joked.

Little said that extraverts are literally less likely to feel pain. He added these outgoing people are great on their feet. “They are able to conjure the illusion of capability that will drive the introverts nuts.”

Although he noted that many people believe someone is either introverted or extraverted, and that those traits are fixed, Little countered that there is room for role playing.

“I should be able to act out of a different nature, but I will need a break from the acting occasionally,” he said.

Little admitted to being a fake extravert, and urged others to take a walk on the other side. “We are multi-biological creatures,” he said. “It’s important that we celebrate our differences.”

He said a mom who is an introvert will have to be an extravert in order to host her children’s birthday parties. Little noted everyone has to find their own niche, and that will allow them to play out their other roles more easily.

Another way of switching personality roles is to add beverages to the equation. “Alcohol is an extraverting beverage,” Little said. “Alcohol lowers everybody’s level of arousal. And the interesting thing is that works well for everybody but extroverts.” He suggested coffee for those people.

He used the example of a project management team that was either introverted or extraverted.

“The extravert team will say ‘All right we’ll do it, consider it done, no problem.’ And does it get done? Who knows?

“The introvert team will do it perfectly. Y2K problems? They’ve got them solved and implemented by the year 2020,” Little stated.

He stressed that no team can have real balance without both introverts and extraverts.