In the July article I gave a brief sketch of what the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test is and to some extent what it is not. In this second piece I intend to look in more detail at some of the practical uses to which knowledge of type, your own and of others, can be put.
As a quick recap, the instrument is designed to identify eight mental processes. The areas they cover are outlined below:-
- Where you draw your energy from
- Where you tend to focus to get your information
- Prioritisation of information in decision making
- Finally, your life management strategy – planned or spontaneous
Taking the instrument gives rise to a type for each individual, which is comprised of four letters; the meanings of which are explained, discussed and verified during a one-on-one interview. The theory goes on to look at the complex internal dynamics of each type and the ways that different types interact with each other.
The vast differences in the ways people experience the world, make decisions and process information are what makes for individuality and of course management and co-existence challenges! We have all worked with someone who seems to be on a totally different wave length (or planet) or have had a boss who does not seem to understand us.
International MBTI type writer and expert Roger Pearman sums up the type take on this in the title of one of his books “I’m not crazy, I’m just not you”.
So how does knowing your type help you as an individual? Research data from a variety of sources including the Centre for Creative Leadership suggests that successful people know themselves well. So if you are seeking success the more you know about yourself the better and having MBTI type insight is one way of increasing that knowledge. It can help you to reflect on the way you act or the strategies you employ in any given situation and assess if they work well.
Secondly, of course, there are all those other people with whom you have to interact who are not the same as you. Knowing something of their types, preferences, likely reactions or preferred methods of approaching or dealing with situations can help you to be a more effective communicator and/or manager.
For organisations the use of type can be particularly effective in team building exercises where facilitated discussions using type theory and knowledge can help team members agree on strategies and systems that will help each type to function and so improve team performance as a whole. Figures from the US MBTI administering company CPP indicate it is used extensively across the business community including most of the Fortune 500 companies.
Knowledge of your type and preferences is a great pathway into increasing emotional intelligence. Just to strike a cautionary note, what identification of an individual’s type should not be used for is to stereotype nor can it provide evidence to assess relative competencies.
There is considerable statistical evidence (where a random sample across USA population was used) that illustrates how each type tends to prefer a different set of work environment characteristics. There are also correlations between some elements of type and particular careers but nothing supports the argument that people who hold those preferences are better at those jobs.
It is clear that someone with a totally different type can be equally if not more successful in any given role, albeit that their approach may be very different. Because of this it would not be appropriate in a recruitment situation to stipulate a particular type for a position.