The Myers-Briggs CaperThe most popular personality test is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It was developed in the 1940s by a housefrau named Isabel Myers and her mom, Kathy Briggs.
It's based it on the ideas of Carl Jung and it measures four aspects of personality which, when arranged in all possible combinations with eachother, divide people into 16 personality types.
These are the four aspects of personality measured:
(Sensing seems to mean "fact-oriented" and Intuition, "imagination-oriented". Judgement refers to a preference for clarity whereas Perception indicates a more open-minded, undefined, even careless disposition).
The questions posed by the test are fairly straightforward: "Do you usually: A) share your feelings freely, or B) keep your feelings to yourself?". "Do you: A) prefer to do things at the last minute, or B) find that hard on the nerves?". And so on.
Although the test is popular, it is ridiculed by academic psychologists. Robert Hogan is a former prof at U Tulsa who now runs his own testing company, Hogan Assessments. He says: "I used to use Myers-Briggs as an icebreaker. People like taking it, and when you get the results back you feel good. But it has the intellectual content of a fortune cookie."
According to Malcolm Gladwell, Jung, himself, would agree.
Jung didn't believe that types were easily identifiable, and he didn't believe that people could be permanently slotted into one category or another.
"Every individual is an exception to the rule," he wrote; to "stick labels on people at first sight," in his view, was "nothing but a childish parlor game."
Eric Adams , however is enthusiastic about its practical value.
Here's the payoff: Learning Myers-Briggs is like learning a new language that can help you to communicate with clients.
Once you get the hang of it, you'll start "typing" your clients by the clues they give. Is she shy and awkward? Introvert. Does he talk about grand plans and schemes? Visionary. Does she use external, scientific data to validate arguments? Thinker. Does he pull out the date book faster than you can say, "pencil me in"? Organizer.
And, here's how he summarizes some of the types:
Extroverts are quick-to-action "people people". Introverts need private space to explore their feelings and ideas.
Detailers see the fine print and are good at tasks requiring attention to particulars. Visionaries see the big picture and are most successful in jobs allowing them to use their imagination and intuition.
Thinkers react logically and analytically. Feelers react with their hearts and love jobs in which they feel strongly about the content of their work.
Organizers love to plan and implement strategies. Adapters like to improvise and prefer to be swept away by events rather than plan them.
So, if your client is an Introvert, don't bring up new ideas in meetings. Work one-on-one in his own office or at his desk when he's ready.
If the client is a Feeler, feel free to make an impassioned presentation.
If you're sitting across from an Adapter, you can present several scenarios based on any number of contingencies.
Even if it has no predictive ability the value of the Myers-Briggs, like that of astrology, might be that it gives everyone a common vocabulary with which to discuss personality issues.
Want to try it yourself? Here's an online test which claims to be based on the Jung-Myers-Briggs approach.
See also, Drake Bennett at Boston.com and Team Technology.