Saturday, 13 February 2016

Is Myers-Briggs up to the job?

The FT asks the question this morning and gives a summary of the debate: http://on.ft.com/1V5PqT8  It seems to me, however, that both sides of the table have it slightly off. 

Taking the example of the husband and wife at a party, saying that one of them wants to leave the party early because they're an introvert is the wrong way to look at it. 'Introvert' is merely the tag you give someone who wants to leave a party early. So explaining the behaviour as the outcome of the tag is simply saying 'you want to leave the party early because you want to leave the party early'. 

Nevertheless, that does have its uses. Once you begin to pay attention to personality types, you are, in fact, paying attention to personality, thereby accepting certain aspects of personality, which might include wanting to leave the party early. Accepting differences in personality, even if by the proxy of artificial personality types, can result in negotiating compromises, hence more effective relationships. 

The danger, however, arises from stereotyping, as well as the excessive emphasis placed on the I-E axis. My LinkedIn timeline is full of superficial, trite analysis and recommendations on the differences between I and E types. These are often simply wrong; but also fail to take into account all the many different aspects of personality. One of the important points of all the different introspective exercises that we undertook at IMD was the multitude of layers that might influence personality: culture, family, travel... 

In sum, using structures can help to understand differences in behaviour, thereby assisting in developing better relationships. But it's vital to avoid placing undue emphasis on the descriptor, and drawing superficial conclusions that stereotype, otherwise you miss the point, which is to better relate to each individual.