Articles on MBTI ® & Personality Type applications
Practical Business Applications of the MBTI Myers-Briggs Personality Type Model By Ross Reinhold, INTJ
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Know Thyself . . . First
Many people attracted to Myers-Briggs see it as a means of categorizing and understanding others. While that benefit certainly exists - on paper, I have found it difficult to implement in practice. At best "typing" others is a tentative hypothesis that requires constant revisiting. And since there are variations within a given MBTI type (no two people within a type are truly identical), assumptions can be dangerous.
How Myers-Briggs can best equip you to better understand and relate to others begins at home - getting a better handle on yourself, your type and how you are similar or different from others who share your type. What are your particular tendencies within the dichotomies that define type? What is your dominant preference? What characteristics best define how you use the eight preferences? What preferences are your blind spots . . . what are your weaknesses?
One of the most attractive features of the Myers-Briggs philosophy is the valuing of differences. It rejects the notion of conventional psychology that tends to push us all towards some sort of golden mean. Implicit in this valuing of differences is that all of us have areas of vulnerability. Whatever is our strength is naturally counterbalanced by an opposite - the other side of the coin. This duality or yin and yang principle is so strong that it can hide our weakness within the shadow of our strengths.
Someone who is quite proficient at logical dialogue and critical, objective analysis, may be poorly equipped to express empathy and give credence to the intangible expression of feelings. In fact, interjecting "feelings" into a rational and objective analysis tends to blow the circuit breakers of a logical thinker! Sometimes the debate on a particular issue between a clear Thinking preference person and a clear Feeling preference person are equivalent to two ships passing in the night. Despite all the words tossed back and forth there really isn't any communication. Each is simply unable to walk in the other person's shoes.
Is reaching across this gulf feasible? It is difficult and takes effort. A logical thinker can "develop" empathy and sensitivity without losing valuable rational powers. It's the old knowing "when to hold and when to fold" - when to trust your faithful thinking power and when to set it aside and be open to its opposite.
You start down this road toward more artful self-management and relationships with others by understanding yourself. Wasn't it Stephen Covey who said "seek first to understand?" Well apply that to yourself first. Next I would advise cultivating some relationships with folks whose strengths complement your weaknesses. From them you can learn a lot.
If you are looking for a tool to help you along in this process, I'd recommend the MBTI Step II, which identifies 20 facets. While there are loads of personality inventories that identify what may or may not be your traits, the Step II is invaluable because it is tied to the Myers-Briggs model of valuing differences instead of identifying good and bad traits.
("Click here" for a summary of the traits or characteristics that have been identified - via extensive psychometric research - as correlates of the 8 type preferences. . . . Incidentally a number of these characteristics also closely correlate with the Big 5 personality constructs outlined by McCrae & Costa, 1989).
Problem Solving & Planning Strategies
The four MBTI polarities can be incorporated into effective problem-solving, planning, and decision-making.
For most of us, our career and life situation gets structured in a way that allows us to function within our boxes. Clear Feeling and Intuitive preference people with an interest in law generally don't become prosecutors and probably don't acquire many friends with a "law and order" personality. While some may be comfortable in a particular box for a lifetime, others intersect more than once with a need to stretch - to get outside their box to successfully manage a situation. Those times require accessing one or more of the opposite of our four preferences.
When we are acting as part of a group of people to solve problems, make plans, or make decisions, there is great value in employing a strategy that allows us to touch upon all the key perspectives that just happen to be defined by the Myers-Briggs dichotomies. This is especially appropriate when the members of a planning or problem-solving group represent a diversity of preferences. I submit, for example, that it is not ethically correct for a group of extraverted preference people to employ a process that prevents those with an introverted preference from being involved in a way that fits their preference. You might as well just say to that person: you don't matter, your input is not important.
Well what if your group is quite alike type-wise, is it OK to fail to touch several bases? From my experience, doing so can be particularly dangerous. A group of type-similar people can function as clones, naturally reinforcing one anther's biases and blind spots. This can lead to courageously and confidently marching in unison over a cliff and into the sea!
By the way, we can get caught acting like lemmings even in very small group situations - like marriage partners who are two peas in a pod or two good friends who finish one anther's sentences. Beware, as Pogo observed, "We have met the enemy and he is us!"
Ok, you're convinced, so how do you do it?
Become acquainted with the major characteristics of the type preferences (E & I, S & N, T & F, and J & P) as they relate to planning, problem-solving, and decision-making. Chart what would be your "normal" decision, planning or problem-solving process and see which of these preferences your process typically engages. Example. If your preferences are I, S, T, & J ask "how does my preference for each of these impact the process I use to plan, problem-solve, or make decisions?"
Typically someone with ISTJ preferences would naturally employ processes that involve a good deal of independent, logical, and structured analysis - having things well worked out before presenting to others for their input or reaction. Yet in working or relating with certain other types of people, this natural style could spell problems. They may expect a more spontaneous, deal-with-it-right-now approach.
Whatever your preference set, it inherently involves certain blind spots to other perspectives and can create interpersonal problems when others expect a different type of involvement with you. Therefore, you would do well to examine the opposite preferences and the way these opposites would employ a different process. In our ISTJ example, seek to understand and appreciate how ENF&P would alter the problem-solving, planning or decision-making process. Strive to find ways you can incorporate these opposites into your routines - without destroying what you believe is the heart of how you are effective.
(Click here to see a graphical representation and an explanation of a Problem-Solving model popularized by Gordon Lawrence)
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