“Oh no, not another one of these psychometric tools!“, I hear you say. But the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is much more than “just another tool“. It is a solid, albeit controversial, approach grounded in Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of personality and it helps us to better understand how we “perceive“ and “decide“.
As with every tool, the MBTI is neither an oracle nor pure in its analysis, much as nothing is neither black nor white. Importantly, too, the purpose of the MBTI is never ever to measure an individual’s eligibility for a certain position or career path. Used, however, with an awareness of these limitations, and with a holistic view of people and their life situations, the MBTI simply can help us to better understand ourselves, and the people around us.
“OK, so a fluffy tool after all!”, you may say. And I would argue that the MBTI is like any other methodology – helping you to understand, but not making the decisions for you or finding a solution in isolation from reality. So why bother with it? And what does that have to do with perception and decision making?
Well, perceiving and deciding are the two mental processes that are central to our daily lives. In regards to the fact that we are perceiving and deciding, we are all equal. And yet we are completely different from one another when it comes to how we use these mental processes.
Just think of a red apple in the grocers. You perceive how yummy and beautiful this juicy, red apple looks and you decide to buy it and eat it straight away (especially since you know that poisoned apples only exist in fairy tales). Or, you might be suspicious that a fruit that perfect cannot possibly be real and decide to pass on this one-off opportunity of watery goodness.
One object, but with different outcomes as different perception leads to a different decision. How we perceive our surroundings and thus on which basis we decide is crucial in all walks of life, but becomes increasingly important in our work environment, especially when working in or with teams.
We are most likely all familiar with questions such as “How can I convince my colleagues about my point of view?“, “Why do we always argue?“, “Was that now a compliment or an insult?“, “Why do we always talk past each other?“ or “Why do I not seem to be able to lead this team?“.
These questions, and many more like them are not answered by the MBTI. Instead, the MBTI helps those who allow themselves to enter the assessment process to understand and appreciate the differences between people and what each person can contribute to the whole. This understanding drives accountability and through this productive working.
No matter whether you are trying to implement a successful organisational culture or to make a team more productive, understanding the parameters you and everybody else are working within is crucial.
But be aware though: True and productive teams never represent a monoculture. The same applies for inspiring organisations. It would be fatal to assume that people with a certain MBTI profile are more qualified to do specific jobs well, or in fact that you would need to be a specific MBTI type to work on the management board. Principally, everybody can fulfil any task. The question is just how much energy it takes someone to perform at their best and master this specific task if it does not belong to their core strengths.
The success of a company lies within the right mix of personalities, skills and mentalities that all equally contribute to the company culture and output. This mix plays a crucial part in enabling organisations and teams to respond to specific situations in the best possible way. It drives, when cultivated in an atmosphere of respect, transparency and accountability, collaborative working and through that success. The MBTI gives us one way to get there. Not the only one. Not the purest one. But one that forms the first step to successful collaboration.