Behavior Why you should abandon Myers-Briggs

Published on July 25th, 2014 | by Adam McKibbin

Should businesses abandon the Myers-Briggs test?

At Central Desktop, we’re somewhat obsessed with learning more about how people work together. Our 9 types of collaborators quiz, infographic and benchmark report offer a fun, easy way to learn more about how you fit alongside your colleagues – and, as a manager, how you can build a team of high-chemistry collaborators. Our newly launched C-Index is designed to help you identify the best difference-makers, influencers and collaborators in your company.

Our 9 collaborators quiz isn’t highly scientific, of course, but is meant to be more actionable than, say, “Which Frozen Character Are You?” On the opposite end of the spectrum from Buzzfeed quizzes is the Myers-Briggs, the O.G. of personality tests. Businesses have relied on Myers-Briggs for decades, and its results just kind of sound deep and serious (“You’re an INTP? I’m an ESTJ!”). The general notion is that the test can spur better collaboration via a deeper understanding of the quirks and differences between colleagues.

Knowing what Myers-Briggs type you are — and, crucially, knowing the types of your other team members — can be a great help in getting past those communication roadblocks on your projects,” says longtime business analyst Tim Walker

Plenty of people agree. “More than 10,000 companies, 2,500 colleges and universities and 200 government agencies in the United States use the test,” reports The Washington Post. “From the State Department to McKinsey & Co., it’s a rite of passage. It’s estimated that 50 million people have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test since the Educational Testing Service first added the research to its portfolio in 1962.” Whatever its faults – and we’ll get to those in a moment – it’s certainly an advancement over measuring your skull to decide whether you have what it takes to make it as a lawyer, or a cold corporation not bothering to think in terms of empathy and collaboration in the first place.

Roman Krznaric, author of How to Find Fulfilling Work, readily acknowledges the lack of scientific rigor behind Myers-Briggs, but says that the results can be a useful tool for self-reflection, at least when used in combination with other tools. For instance, your Myers-Briggs type may point out strengths you’ve ignored, helping you find alternate career routes. Even if it just helps you add a few new adjectives to your resumé… well, hey, that’s something.

Some corporations have taken their attachment to Myers-Briggs to fairly extreme levels; according to one case study, managers at Hallmark often began meetings by asking attendees to call out their “type.” Hallmark credited Myers-Briggs for increasing efficiency and improving “diversity of thought.”

Plenty of psychology experts caution companies against experiencing similarly seismic results. Instead of aiming for widespread cultural change as a result of Myers-Briggs assessments, Psychology Today contributor (and professor of leadership and organizational psychology) Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., urges tempered expectations and a more measured approach. “Perhaps the best use for the MBTI is for self-reflection,” he writes. “If used as a starting point for discussing how people vary in their personalities, and emphasizing tolerance for individual differences and taking others’ perspectives, then it can be a useful tool. However, it is important that the test administrator caution against over-interpretation of the results, and discuss the limitations of the instrument.”

One of the major criticisms of Myers-Briggs is the inconsistency in results; it’s been documented to be pretty likely that if you take the test multiple times, you’ll get varying results. This makes some sense, since it’s obviously difficult to neatly compartmentalize all of humanity into 16 categories (sidenote: those categories aren’t actually much more scientific than “Are you a Rachel or a Monica?”). Sometimes, though, the results are dramatically different, which poses some obvious challenges for organizations seeking a path to a uniquely personalized collaborative nirvana.

“When it comes to accuracy, if you put a horoscope on one end and a heart monitor on the other, the MBTI falls about halfway in between,” says organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Grant, who’s previously spoken with us about the importance of creating a culture of givers, has a list of suggestions for improving the test, starting with an abandonment of the outdated Carl Jung ideas that serve as the core of the analysis.

Myers-Briggs has another problem, although it’s a problem that almost certainly is related to its enduring appeal: essentially all of the results can be cast in a positive light. Even in our 9 collaborators infographic, there are traits that would typically be considered problematic: dinosaurs who are slow to adapt, siloists who cause bottlenecks and security concerns, skeptics who serve as an occasional thorn in your side. In Myers-Briggs, basically everyone is a winner.

“This isn’t a test designed to accurately categorize people, but a test designed to make them feel happy about taking it,” says Vox’s Joseph Stromberg in his withering recent takedown of Myers-Briggs. “This is one of the reasons why it’s persisted for so many years in the corporate world, despite being disregarded by psychologists.”

UPDATE: Inspired by some of the provocative comments below (thank you), we did a follow-up in which Jason Compton considered five of the leading alternatives to Myers-Briggs.


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About the Author

Adam McKibbin

is Central Desktop's content marketing manager. He's previously served in editorial, community and social media management roles for startups and major media companies alike. His writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including the Chicago Tribune, Adweek, The Nation and Dell's Tech Page One.



70 Responses to Should businesses abandon the Myers-Briggs test?

  1. Ieuan says:

    I think the test is massively useful but in a controlled and limited way.

    Trying to build teams off the types is ridiculous and as bad as setting out with a goal of wanting a team with ratios defined be sex or colour. Other people knowing your type isn’t necessarily useful either as it encourages dishonesty and favouritism.

    However knowing our own tendencies can be massively empowering and helpful. Many people have a mental picture of their own behaviours that does not match reality, the MB test (if taken several times to iron our inconsistencies) can help make the real picture more clear for people and if they can understand that better they can become more effective.

    • Verlin Senior says:

      The usefulness of the MBTI depends on an ability not often mentioned. Versatiliy is very important. A non-versatile person will have serious difficulty working with a very different person. Versatile people will usually find a cooporative middle ground,

    • John C says:

      Your opening señtence is key.
      So too is the leadership already in place in the company/ organisation for that is where the organisation’ character is initiated .
      John C. ( veteran).

  2. Richard Bryce says:

    As an interim HR Manager with 40 years experience it frustrates me how often I have to go in to battle with people totally wedded to the MBI, 16PF and other such nonsense. These instruments lack any scientific rigour but they appeal because they are simple to administer and are easier to apply for HR departments than is skilful interviewing and background research. They give HR departments the aura of scientific rigour when they are exactly the opposite, somewhat like homeopathy is to proper medicine. It always amazes me how few (usually none) of the users and advocates of MBI have ever bothered to research it, and if they have it should trouble them to find there has been nothing published in reputable journals to support it. They just take it on face value. To me this is professional negligence.

    MBI is fun to use at parties and as an ice breaker so long as people are told it lacks any reliability as a predictor. It is criminal to use it to determine someone’s fate in the job market and work place.

    • Rupert Granville says:

      Couldn’t agree more. It has become a substitute for instinct, experience and intelligent interview. Worse, it is now used to ratify or mask incompetence. Genuine HR expertise is now subordinate to daft-arsed application of these quack tests…….

      • Chris says:

        There’s a lot of value to understanding MB testing outside of HR.

        Every sales person should know their personality type, and how they come across to others. Then they need to understand other types, and recognize cues their clients and prospects are giving them. It can mean the difference between making or loosing a sale or big account.

        • Alan Rae says:

          While that is of course true it begs the question of whether Myers Briggs can contribute to this or whether it’s just a Mother and Daughter fantasy

    • Diana says:

      I agree with this assessment. We have taken similar “tests” at work, and I’ve noticed that some of my teammates hold their (and others) results as gospel. Used in such a way, and in the wrong manager’s hands, the results of these unscientific tests could prove to be (and rightfully so) the basis of a discrimination lawsuit.

    • Todd says:

      I agree. As an Educational Psychologist, I find the prevalence of “pop” psychology distracting from so many of the advances in the field of Psychology. These things get into the public and take on a life of their own. Same goes for left brain – right brain preferences where we are supposed to be artistic if we are left brained etc. However, the science is very thin for this as well, but people take it as gospel.

    • Barry says:

      I took Myers-Briggs 3 times over a span of 15 years. It gave me the same type each time. I gave me a lot of insight into myself which I agree. By and large it certainly beat the “INSTINCT”, “GUT FEEL” and “EXPERIENCE” of many self serving personnel executives. No one should use the test as the way we use a measuring tape but it tells a lot more than anybody can tell you.

      • Jeremy' says:

        Me too! 5 tests over 15 years (3 x ENTP 2x ENFP)
        My wife of 40 years knows me better than I know myself and she says it’s a very accurate assessment.

    • Jack says:

      Skillful interviewing???? Now that is an absolute grandiose and distorted view of oneself and of the limitations of the interview process. Interviews are a crap shoot. They sometimes can be accurate, sometimes grossly inaccurate and sometimes somewhere in the middle. Certain people are the what you see is what you get types, and for others, for better and for worse, that is not at all the case. The only problem is that it is extremely difficult to tell when interviews reveal meaningful and accurate information and when they don’t. And the fact that you seem to believe that skillful interviewing, or interviewing techniques, can see past that is just arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and wrong.

    • Peter Hantos says:

      Your message is a breath of fresh air…

  3. actually, a horoscope is extremely accurate. that’s one of it’s draw backs. it provides so much detailed information that is is almost useless for describing group dynamics. and that’s a key problem word, too. humans are dynamic — a calculus which horoscopes show — and to see any test as anything more than a snapshot in time of the ‘film strip’ of one’s life is in error.

    what one must consider is that there is a continuum of archetype to type and a useful tool falls at the right place on that continuum for the job at hand.

    it is not the Myers-Briggs that is a problem, but those who do not know how to apply it nor educate people on how to apply it.

    interestingly, Myers-Briggs arises out of Jung’s encounter with astrology as the categories are based on the 4 elements of alchemy. knowing this, one can apply the essence of Myers-Briggs to things other than people’s personalities. from how to cover a topic completely in writing to setting organizational goals to determining the value of actions. it is far more robust than most if any business has tapped into — but to do so requires real expertise. :)

  4. Ali says:

    What kind of Myers Briggs type posts a comment about posting comment upon the comments board related to the Myers Briggs test, anyway??

  5. Simon Goode says:

    Waste of time. Out date testing method, more for amusement. I’ve always believed MB was a novelty act equivalent to astrology.

  6. Robert Park says:

    I took the Myers-Briggs test 1961 which was 53 years ago and found it interesting and helpful; interesting in that it revealed interests to which I was unaware and helpful in that it provided direction to my future career. The psychologist who later provided career counselling was well off the mark. I simply followed the money as I had a wife and family to support but in occupations which instinctively appealed to me. What the tests failed to reveal was the distinct tendency to function better on my own, that my IQ fell within the top 2% and so too did my view of life and that I had acute perception and sought to understand the principles behind things. Somewhere around the middle of the test it revealed that I had executive qualities. To a working class young man brought up in a dysfunctional family and being told that he was dumb and who never proceeded beyond primary education where he was a chronic truant, this came as a surprise yet, interestingly, this was the direction in which my career followed and on its conclusion I was the CEO of a public concern. At the time I took the tests I was frustrated with how my life was unfolding so it provided a some support but was it useful; well, not really, as I am certain that I would have taken the same course (or another closely aligned to it) that I had chosen from the circumstances in which I found myself at any given moment.

    During the late 1970s I was subjected to the PF13 test at the Edinburgh Business School where it was suggested that I was a Bohemian which could not be further from the truth and that my motivation was negligible (meaning probably that I was laid back) but I cannot recall more about this tests except to say that I thought the questions where infuriatingly puerile.

    • John Brooks says:

      Me too, dysfunctional family, told I was stupid. Took the MB test and was told I was a leader with feelings.

      Come to find out I led a platoon and such in the military.

  7. Ruth McVeigh says:

    Actually, I have a great deal more faith in handwriting analysis, if it is done with a proper sample and by someone who has made a study of it.

    • Kavod says:

      I’m sure you can tell some things by handwriting, same as by body posture, but my mother and I had identical handwriting when she was alive, even we got us mixed up. Sure didn’t have identical personalities.

  8. bjam says:

    There is no definitive way to identify an employee’s personality. MB is the closest that I have seen, if there were a silver bullet HR departments would shrink and we wouldn’t all need therapy (yes WE ALL need it, if you think you don’t then you need it more than most). This article does nothing to add to the discussion and frankly seems to be lazy writing with little or no thought by the author on what the point of the article is. Case in point, Adam Grant thinks the test should be improved not abandoned then lays this gem; ” starting with an abandonment of the outdated Carl Jung ideas”. There is so much wrong with this I will have limit my ire. 1. Jung’s ideas are far from outdated, they still form the basis for all of modern psychology (has this Adam Grant schmuck even read Jung, the man is a genius) 2. MB is ONLY reasonably good because it uses true science based on the ideas of Mr. Jung, you don’t get more physiologically scientific than Jung. So if Adam had his way he would abandon the Jungian part of MB, then there is nothing left. Such an obvious contradiction is evidence of how poor this article was conceived. There is no problem with MB, there is a problem with how it is used. That would be a useful article. And anyone that thinks any test (even IQ) is going to always be accurate is a fool, nothing is, it is how we use the information not the method used to collect the information.

  9. Liam says:

    Essentially, I agree most with Ieuan. I believe that, much as the article states, the MBTI is best used as tool to facilitate greater introspective self-knowledge, far moreso than anything that can be reasonably applied in a professional context.

    I have found MBTI very helpful on a personal level, for example. My own type is INFP, and contrary to the views of some, I don’t believe it is possible for an individual’s type to change. I think the expression of their natural tendencies is liable to differ as they progress through life and react to their circumstances and environment, however the underlying tendencies, principles and cognitive processes that prompt the expression of those traits – call me deterministic, but I think they are more static, or at the very least are set early in life. It may not be true of everyone, and may not apply to certain individuals (ie genetic sociopaths) but when reflecting on my own experience it is certainly true of me, and considering certain negative stereotypes pertaining to the NF temperament particularly in a business context, I think it’s reasonable to say it’s more than just Forer effect.

    The problem with applying it in an organisational or professional context is not only its lack of scientific verification but also the fact that it is very limited. Quantifying humanity beyond a certain vague accuracy is impossible. MBTI is more than just a collection of four letters as it is based on Jungian cognitive function theory. In my experience it is strikingly accurate in a very broad sense. An individual’s type is more descriptive of how their mind works and how they process information more than anything else. Two individuals of the same type may share certain superficial similarities (and at times even similar quirks and or ideologies) but at the same time are profoundly different people. Type alone cannot encompass a person’s life experiences, personal history and individual variance.

    I fully believe that were my type to have been revealed to employers at some jobs I have worked at in the past then I would have been dropped from consideration, due to what I can only describe as ‘typism’. Many employers are conservative and want hard data and guaranteed return on investment, both in products and people, where possible – I appreciate that. However, I’m of the opinion that relying disproportionately on psychometric instruments as a predictor of productivity and contributions is tantamount to a pre-emptive disqualification of a large number of people who may be of a great help to a company or contribute in unforeseen ways. People are multifaceted creatures.

  10. Abigail says:

    The problem is that these tests aren’t accurate if they are not administered by a professional. Most of us have taken them online, so of course the results are going to vary.

  11. Dean Hallett says:

    There is as much scientific evidence for the MB test as there is for Freud’s – ie not much.They’re selling into a widespread desire – ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could categorise people by personality, you know, kinda scientifically?’ but as for rigorous testing; forget it. In 100 years, when Psychologists agree on how people work, then you might be able to measure something useful; until then, Corporations, save your money and spend it on the office party – something useful to the workforce – rather than this useless BS.

  12. John Price says:

    MB is a load of pointless twaddle. As noted above, it has only risen to prominence because it provides departments with a quantified outcome.

    Modern day equivalent of humorism.

  13. Mark Stephenson says:

    The MBTI categories correlate moderately with four of the Five factor model, which does have some empirical support: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator#Big_Five

    I can also say that I’ve found it helpful in understanding myself and other people. I agree, though, that it’s best used for personal feedback, and should never be used for employment screening, or even probably career advice.

  14. jerry says:

    Anything that gives different answers on multiple tests needs to be called what it is: garbage. In this case it’s garbage designed to make 7 billion people believe they’re one of 16. Anyone or company that uses this is a joke. You may has well put 16 slips of paper in a hat and make new hires draw one. Hell, make it interesting and make everyone pick a new one everyday. Then someone actually gets one close to them once in a while.

  15. I have four reactions to this article:
    1. The title, as is so often the case in our media, is overly dramatic, although the article itself is balanced.
    2. If you look at innovations over the past several centuries, many of them came from ‘non-experts’ in the particular field. Even Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist, won the Nobel Prize for economics. I have long admired the people who have connected the dots across disciplines to gain fresh insight and understanding. Such is the case with Meyers and Briggs, who took a normative concept from Jung’s work and developed it into highly reliable (see next comment) and valid (in my opinion), practical tool based on lots of empirical work (they tested their questions and interpretations on lots of people to make sure the instrument worked for real people).
    3. Re: the comment about the MBTI’s lack of reliability over time: I have taken it at various times over the past 25 years and although my preference for some of my borderline elements varies a little from time to time, the elements for which I have the highest preference have remained consistent over all those years. I used to be certified to conduct MBTI engagements and give feedback, and this was true for others as well.
    4. I am intrigued by the author’s comment about the MBTI couching all the feedback in positive terms. I am eager to read Stromberg’s and others’ work to learn more about that, its implications, and alternatives.

  16. Mr. McKibbon writes an opinion and extrapolates information from Psychology Today which is hardly considered by psychologists to be a valid, reliable source of research, rather congruent with People magazine. Citing Roman Krznaric, Dr. Ronald Rizzio, and Stromberg is okay, however, this writer de-emphasizes what these sources actually say about the MBTI. Hopefully, he had permission to do so.

    The MBTI is the oldest and most widely researched non-diagnostic instrument used to assess eight dichotomous personality constructs related that were and still are deemed useful in determining best work/career preferences. At the time of its inception our country was heading toward war (WWII) and had implemented the draft and therefore needed a way to assess and guide the remaining work force (women) to jobs that they would be most likely to remain successful with low injury or drop out.

    The MBTI assesses the psychological construct of interest which many authors have misguided readers into thinking that interest is a choice or character trait for individuals. In fact, it is a construct with astounding magnitude to the extent that there is no one instrument that can measure it, which is the point facto that psychologists actually advise/caution about. It has bearings on worker satisfaction, which is related to contentedness, but be cautious about equating these with “happiness” because “happiness” is
    different, usually circumstantial and short-termed.

    MBTI has had changing uses over the time for various reasons. I stopped using the instrument in the 90’s because of the “rubber stamping” conclusions at the time. However, after learning that CAPT had significantly changed and researched the premises of the instrument and had changed to allow for personality changes context to context and over time, I began using it again.

    It has tremendous use in helping illuminate personality differences amongst people in task-approach, listening analysis, communication style and energy differences.

    Collaboration is an altogether different construct than interest. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here and certainly not because Mr. McKibbon’s own INTEREST in collaboration, rather than interest.

  17. tylerh says:

    The main reason for variability in MBTI test results, in my opinion, is that the people conducting the tests, fail to properly inform the participants about what mind set they should have when testing. People should not be answering the questions with a view to what they aspire to, or what is most efficacious in their particular environment. If they can set those types of considerations aside, their answers and results will be much more consistent.
    Also, YES, it DOES point out that ALL types have positive things to offer. OF COURSE – that is the big epiphany! Some people may not be suited to their particular work environment, but the test helps people realize that they may be much better suited to a different environment. Every race, and every nationality and every person has something valuable to contribute, if they realize it, and develop it, and apply it in the right way and in the right arena or field. If you want to start telling people that they are just plain “no good” rather than telling them what they CAN offer, or what they are best suited to, then you have no business being in this business.

  18. Philip PM says:

    I took the MBTI twice while working within our NHS, on both occasions administered by an MB professional, and more recently as the CEO of an NHS Trust. The first occasion was on the introduction of general management to the NHS in the mid ’80s, when my boss was interested in discovering the personality types he’d just inherited as his new group of general managers.

    The second occasion was when we decided to take my Trust board away for an ‘away day’ in 1990, and used the MBTI as much for fun as for anything more serious. I was fascinated to see that the ten folks who participated all came out very much true to type as I would have expected from knowing them and working with them.

    For example, the non-executive directors, appointed by the Health Secretary and mainly from the business sector, sat towards the ‘harder’ business end of the board, while my chairman and I were juxtaposed in the middle in a very good relationship to reflect our roles. My executive colleagues (medical, nursing, finance and HR directors) were progressively strung out towards the ‘softer’ public service end of the spectrum.

    I’m not an expert in this field, and we were certainly not intent on using the MBTI in any formal sense or on a continuing basis, but it was very interesting and enjoyable to capture this little ‘snapshot’ of our team and how we functioned. Whether the test was strictly necessary of provided any further information over what we already knew of sensed, I can’t comment. However, I’ve always kept my own results, if only to remind myself of my extrovert Welsh personality!

  19. Ruth Anne says:

    I have taken it myself and administered by a professional, and every time I get the same result. I have to say it is spot on and really helped me understand why I do some things I do. I also understand why I need time to myself and how I work best since I took the test, and it was a relief to consider that I am an introvert who needs that alone time to recharge, even though I enjoy people and am happy to help them. It hit spot on my spouse and all three kids (the kids had them done by a professional) and pretty much anyone else I know who took it. We took it as part of our education and counseling courses as well, so that was more confirmation to me since it was spot on for all the other students.

    As for astrology, my birth chart describes me exactly as well, so what can I say? Balderdash? Maybe, so I don’t care either way since that also helped me gain a bit of insight about myself. And yes, I veer toward science over anecdotes, but I’m flexible enough to acknowledge when something is wrong or totally correct.

    As for using it in groups, I think it can be helpful and it really helps me to know the MBTI so I can approach the person in a constructive way. I wouldn’t use that exclusively, though, since I have seen results for some people change a bit as they mature and get to know themselves better. Sometimes people don’t want to choose answers that don’t seem acceptable to them for some reason, so as they mature a bit they may become more self-aware. So yes, I really do think it’s pretty accurate, and it has helped me structure groups up to a point. I do think sometimes the challenge of working outside our comfort zones is important, so I wouldn’t structure the group so everyone is totally unchallenged. It makes a good starting point, but not the absolute guide in my view.

  20. DavidP says:

    MBTI is based on Jung’s theory of personality and is designed to measure the characteristics that Jung regarded as the four key dimensions of personality. However, large scale academic research into personality, using factor analysis to identify the traits that combine together to determine our personalities, and that are distinct and independent from each other, has identified five factors (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism), and people are distributed normally along the two extremes (so most cluster around the middle), rather than their being a bi-modal distribution (as MBTI suggests) where you are either one end or the other.

    Furthermore, there are negatives associated with being at one or both extremes – you may want people to be Open to new ideas, so being at the closed end of the scale would be very negative, but someone who is constantly seeking out novelty for novelty’s sake would be real pain as well. Extremes on the neuroticism scale range from being over-emotional to being unemotional. Understanding your own personality is valuable, but I only see value in a personality inventory that is research-based (like the five factor model) rather than one designed to reflect a theory developed in the early part of the 20th century. Just as many (most?) of Freud’s theories have proven to be erroneous as we get to see how the brain actually works, I have little faith in his rebellious disciple’s theories of personality.

  21. Bob says:

    One should avoid, like the plague, any company that uses a personality test to understand their employees in place of actually taking the time to talk to them. People that deal with this are usually the ones that get used and abused by their employer.

  22. Howard says:

    The most it can do is reveal that different people approach things differently. However, at the age of 52 I had already figured that out a while ago…

  23. I took the MBTI about 10 years ago and found it amazing and very useful info for myself and for my staff. I attended the required training to qualify to administer it to others. it requires one spend time with the participant so that the results are clear and belong to the participant confidentially. If the type is shared it is done with this in mind, that being understood much can be gained in growth. by the individual and the group.

  24. col says:

    It is obvious to me that you have not thoroughly researched the MBTI. It’s uses go well beyond the corporate environment. If you are well trained in the instrument you will realize that it should not be used to put people in a box. Although it is the most well-researched and validated self-report instrument available, it allows for some variation in passage of time and self report accuracy. It was never intended to be a “you’re okay, I’m okay” tool. It is very helpful in understanding how you express yourself, energize yourself, gather information, make decisions and operate in the world. It also provides insight into what unhealthy tendencies you should be aware of and how you relate to others and yourself. Understanding how your shadow, etc. works can help you to avoid the self-destructive loop you tend to experience.

    In the corporate environment it should be used to help individuals understand and appreciate the differences and value of other’s types and processing. This may or may not be accepted by all but it is a start in reducing conflict.

    Obviously there are many people who abuse and generalize it’s uses. Being an advocate for the MBTI is not the same as promoting all of Jung’s theories. My experience is that psychologists have a tendency to lock on to the flavor of the month. The MBTI has stood the test of time and used in the right way is a valuable tool in many environments.

  25. Qubie says:

    Leave it to man’s self-importance that they actually delude themselves into believing they can quantify and classify the complexities associated wth a given huiman being. All these tests do is provide an excuse for untalented managers to subjugate their subordinates by using “broad-stroke” classifications as a means to dminish a person’s worth. THESE TEST SUCK and AMERICA REALLY SUCKS. Led by a bunch of sociopaths. If you’re not the 1%, submit to this testing… it’s your destiny. Slaves.

  26. Jessamyn says:

    Dear Mr. McKibbin-
    I love the Myers Briggs- it has been an amazing tool for me in deciding on my career journey. I agree that its strength is in self-reflection, but find it a very useful tool in understanding group dynamics.

    Despite my allegiance to the MBTI I was willing to take your test to discover if I was indeed a dinosaur, socialite or executive and found that your quiz referenced Google Reader – which has been defunct for quite sometime. This reference made your test and article seem unreliable and outdated. Also there was no way to receive my result, so I am left wondering who I am, in relation to your company’s list of qualities that make a person a dinosaur, socialite or executive.

    I write not to add to the noise, but to offer some feedback for improvement.

    Regards,
    Jessamyn

    • Adam McKibbin says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jessamyn. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with MBTI. It’s been very interesting to read the diverse experiences and opinions in this comment section.

      We had a glitch with our quiz tool that was preventing results from being seen; that should be resolved now. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. We pruned Google Reader from the quiz while we were at it; that quiz, as you rightly suspected, was written a while ago (and certainly not intended to be a proper competitor to MBTI).

      Best wishes,
      Adam

  27. John Morris says:

    MBTI is the modern equivalent to alchemy or theories of demon possession. There is zero scientific rigor and no predictability. That people can talk to each other based on MBTI is only an artifact of MBTI codifying “folk wisdom”. “Intuition” exists of course. But folk wisdom is not science, and I don’t go to a witch doctor when my child is ill.

    The idea that corporations embed such hooey in efforts to build collaboration is either laughable or terrifying. And rather revealing that too often HR means little except keeping the masses quiet.

    Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a day of team building (“Team is an acronym meaning ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’, and don’t forget there’s no ‘I’ in team . . .”). But why not base it on science? Because many managers are just plain incompetent. I’m not (yet) a CEO; but one of my first acts will be to fire all senior executives who ever sponsored an MBTI event.

    Senior executives are paid a lot of money — to know the difference between science and mysticism. Management doesn’t achieve anything by magic. As for the actual content of MBTI, read up on the background and scientific assessment. MBTI has zero value as science; I mean serious, based on Karl Jung and archetypes?

    • David says:

      There’s _everything_ wrong with a day of team building if it’s overseen by pantstains who say things like: “Team is an acronym meaning ‘Together Everyone Achieves More’, and don’t forget there’s no ‘I’ in team . . .”.

      ‘There’s no ‘I’ in team…’ – there’s an excellent suicide response to that, but I don’t think they’d allow me to post it here.

      (‘No, but there’s a ‘U’ in DELETED’ – there’s no way they’d tolerate that, is there?)

  28. Jon B says:

    I have taken these sorts of inventories before. They seem to me to be born of two desires: To simplify the categorization of people into a manageable number of “types”, and to exert subtle (and not so subtle, i.e. You’re a Dinosaur”) pressure on people to conform to a simplified way of being.

    I can understand that they are useful, especially for people who are not generally self-obsessed, because they help people to think about what sort of people they are, and also because is a very shallow way, they can point out the things about a person that would be obvious to anyone else, but a person may not recognize in themself.

    That employers would use such weak tools for selection and promotion of employees is not surprising to me, since we all want to be absolved of the cruelty and unfairness that others see in our arbitrary actions. So we base our decisions on “scientific” methods. Then we are absolved of responsibility. Along with that, there is the collateral benefit of feeling that we have used “science” to make our selections, which are mostly a shot in the dark otherwise, so we can be confident we have hit the target.

    I can understand this. It is like casting lots, or reading horoscopes, or wearing your lucky socks to the interview. People trust things like that. So with all of these personality inventories.

    Since you have combined basic human wickedness (to make decisions which are life-altering for other people, while absolving those who make the decisions of responsibility) with basic human superstition (trusting in a personality inventory or a lucky rabbits foot), you should have a very marketable product, So it is.

    The problem with these methods is that to the extent they are valid, they apply to the middle of the distribution. They really don’t fit outliers. So it is probably OK for selecting associates for retail sales, where you just want a pleasant person who is reasonably tidy. And no great injustice is done by a completely arbitrary selection method. And on a cold call interview, they probably do help to weed out the outliers.

    But most things which people view as significant advances or developments have been and will result from the efforts of outliers. Extreme people. For example, if you are developing electrical machines, you want someone like Tesla, who can visualize polyphase AC fields in his head. And you don’t care about his personality “type” which is a bit odd. You figure out how to deal with it. (that is called management).

    In addition to being pointless, the little tests are designed for the middle, and they tend to produce strange and inconsistent results for the people on the extremes.

    An example of how the tests are designed for the middle is the left-brain/right brain tests. It seems to me obvious that there are two correct answers to each question, and one could be described as symbolic, while the other could be described as pragmatic. Seeing the two correct answers, each with equal weight, I can direct the test to be exactly “centered” by alternating which equally correct answer I choose. Or I can be extremely right or left brained by simply choosing one type of answer or the other. It seems odd to me other people don’t see the test this way. With regard to that sort of thing, I am an outlier. I picked this because it is a simple example of what I am describing. People who are at the extremes of capabilities tend not to fit the tests.

    On a personal level, I like these extreme people. They are interesting.

  29. Matt Stevenson says:

    “Skull-testing questions”

  30. Cerberos says:

    I took it whilst applying for a civil service post in 2010.

    I was an ambitious leader, a good team player; well balanced and non-impulsive

    I took it two years later applying for a job with another organisation.

    I lacked ambition, preferred working alone and tended to get irritated and stressed by difficult situations.

    So here I am still in my old job leading an armed response team……..(?)

  31. Fiona Prince says:

    I was introduced to MBTI in the early 1990’s during a facilitated Strategic Planning day for a small team in a service-oriented organization. None of us were friends; we didn’t particularly enjoy working together and we were having difficulties figuring out how to move forward with less staff and new technology.

    When we received our reports and shared them with each other, the facilitator asked if we agreed with our type. My co-workers agreed with theirs; I didn’t agree with mine. I remember them trying to show me how it was right, but the more we talked the more they understood my position and stopped trying to make me accept the MBTI type from the report.

    The best part of that Strategic Planning day was the time we took to share our MBTI results. It didn’t matter whether we agreed or disagreed; we knew more about each other and how to work together. We trusted each other more. That trust allowed us to work together to solve problems and serve our customers. It even helped us figure out who should take on some of the tasks that weren’t in anyone’s job description.

    After the Strategic Planning day, I found http://www.keirsey.com and did what I thought was the MBTI. What I really took was the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS). The results I received from that assessment resonated so strongly for me that asked my co-workers to take it, too. They received similar results as their MBTI. We really enjoyed comparing our reports and figuring out what fit and what didn’t. Our conversations focused on what we each needed for a healthy work environment and how we could give each other what we needed.

    I studied all the other KTS temperaments, used it informally in the workplace, and finally did a certification. Now I use the KTS along with other assessment tools (such as, Everything DiSC; Five Behaviours of a Cohesive Team; StrenghtsFinders; Leadership Practices Inventory) to help people improve their interpersonal communications in the workplace.

    These personality and behavioural assessment tools, and others like them, are useful as a starting point for dialogue.. Take as many of these assessments as you like to build your self-awareness; but, always ask others if they agree with their results before deciding who they are, what they need and how you should treat them.

    And if someone says they don’t believe in all these assessments, that okay, too. The important thing is to talk about how you can work together to do the ‘stuff’ you’re being paid to do.

  32. Jeremiah cole says:

    Myers Briggs changed my life for the better, not only in my work, but in my family life as well.

    When I first encountered MB, I was highly skeptical, as I am about most new things I encounter. (Turned out that my skepticism was a function of my MB type!) The test was administered by a psychologist who had been trained in its use, and was given to the company’s executive staff – a very talented, high-performing group of strong personalities. There were the usual kinds of different points of view among the group, and some of us didn’t like each other particularly well.

    Each of us was given his/her own results and then the psychologist explained each of the four paired MB aspects, and each of the 16 resulting “types”. She then gave us each a copy of “Please Understand Me”, Keirsey’s book on MB. Our assignment was to read the book and think about what we thought of MB and whether our “type” did or did not “fit” us. There was no pressure to accept the concept or to accept one’s type.

    I was thunderstruck. It was as if the description of my “type” (INTP) had been written specifically with me in mind: my management style, how I behaved at social functions, the way I played sports, my writing and speaking styles, my choice of friends, my skepticism, my values, even the way I DROVE.

    The next week, executive staff met to discuss MB. Out of 15 people only one didn’t think her “type” was a fit. More than half were like me in being amazed at the accuracy of the typing, the rest weren’t quite as excited, but were definite in their agreement with how they were typed. (Revealing your type was optional, but I think everone did so.)

    Almost immediately, some of the differences between individuals in work matters were seen as differences in “type”. That didn’t make the differences go away, but it did make it easier to later reach agreement. One particular difference I remember was between the Ps and the Js. Ps like me wanted certain decisions put off until the group involved knew more, while the Js felt the need to make the decisions and move on. Both sides thought the other side’s position was irresponsible, and the discussions had been somewhat heated. In light of what we learned from MB, the differences became more understandable, and each side showed more respect for the other’s position, making resolution easier.

    If I have the time later, I’ll write about my family’s experience with MB, and how it brought me and my daughter closer together.

  33. HH says:

    These tests are just another way to pigeonhole people, and make them targets for discrimination by bosses who think they need a particular personality type. Businesses are not psychiatrists, and shouldn’t even be ALLOWED to administer tests like this to staff.

    When asked to take such tests, I look for another job.

  34. Wow, many interesting and diverse opinions here! As a communication / business skills skills trainer and consultant for 20 years, I’ve come across many such instruments either first hand (as a deliverer), as a candidate in the selection process, or through conversations with professionals about their experiences of them (good, bad, and ugly). I also studied psychometrics during as part of my Masters degree: and developed a healthy scepticism about the usefulness of many of them in an occupational context.

    My take is this: the empirical validity of even the most famous psychometric instruments is highly questionable: and, to compound matters, they are often delivered by professionals who aren’t qualified or experienced in ‘positioning’ them with an audience. I’ve heard some horror stories about psychologists beating people up with their ‘profile': and doing more harm than good for their profession. I agree with many contributors in that any type of psychometric instrument should only ever be used as an awareness-building tool (self / others / human dynamics): and in safe, non-judgmental hands. There are many instruments out there which are poorly designed, used recklessly, and are about as useful as reading someone’s tea leaves to assess their personality type.

    Of course, this brings into question the integrity of the ‘science’ behind the psychometric testing industry: and, of course, the massive financial interests behind promoting the idea to the corporate world. For those who are psycho-junkies, the Emperor’s New Suit phenomenon comes to mind: and for managers / recruiters there is also a more disturbing trend of falling back on the tests to avoid taking personal responsibility for their decisions or judgement.

    Hope this helps! :-)

  35. norm says:

    If a company needs a tool to discover your talents, they may have a problem on their hands bigger than the scale itself. Not only was it developed in a different era, without business in mind, but the fact that we all hold jobs for less time with generally more dissatisfaction than we used to, before these sort of tools made their way into the workplace, points to the data-driven model of employment as a poor substitute for humanist approach. Look at all the CEOs who last a short time. And those are chosen with the greatest of attention. Still, do they actually talk to the guy/gal to see their passion, before deciding he or she could be bought with enough money…which they will?

  36. Barbara Kafka says:

    The MB indicator was intended to help promote peace in the world by understanding the preferences you were born with and understanding that others may have different preferences, you can work with others and not think you are the one that is right.

  37. Richard says:

    MBTI is 20th century astrology and no more meaningful than the horoscopes published in the newspaper.

    If you administered the test to 16 people, and distributed the MB types randomly to the test subjects without bothering to actually score the tests, most of the subjects would claim that the description was accurate.

  38. Mary says:

    I’ve been an infj since the age of 10. I was always heartbroken hat I wasn’t infp because that’s the personality type of every author ever, and us infjs have only got frodo and Buddha.

  39. Judith Topol says:

    Author alleges that Carl Jung’s ideas are “outdated”…? First of all, if anyone had told Carl Jung that his Tavistock Lectures would be expanded into a corporate hiring test, he would have laughed his ass off (in my humble opinion). Meyer’s-Briggs may have originated in Jungian theory, but it was developed at an American University, and as far as I know…without the specific authorization of Carl Jung himself. For anyone interested in how their colleagues process information, it is incredibly insightful and not at all intrusive in any case. Not is it a “label” type thing. As far as its being a corporate model, hmm. Not sure about that one. Eerything becomes corrupupted when money’s involved somewhere.

  40. Jack says:

    I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test many times and EVERY time I come up as an INTJ. I fit the INTJ profile like a glove. However, on the site where I took it, each of the four main attributes were reported as strongly expressed, moderately expressed or mildly expressed. For SOME people such as myself, they’re all strongly expressed, but for others one or more attributes can be only mildly expressed. This explains why some people can take the test again weeks later and get a different result. This makes perfect sense because it’s unrealistic to think that EVERYONE in the entire world can be slotted into 16 different personality types. Hence, in order for the test to have any real value, it’s important to make note of how the strongly four main attributes are expressed for each person who takes it!

  41. Tim says:

    Personally, I’ve taken the test 5 times over 10 years, both professionally administered and through the self-options you can find online. Each has returned the same result, and in follow up reading, I agree with a majority of my associated type descriptions. It’s pretty safe to say I am closely associated with the general tendencies of an INTJ. From a personal perspective, this can certainly be used for introspective analysis of how you react in situations, but also for a personal understanding of how you are perceived by others and can lead to positive improvement in your relationships. If used in a team environment – say at a retreat with coworkers – it can have a very entertaining and positive effect on team dynamics as a fun way to illustrate that interpersonal relationships are varied and that simply recognizing the varied strengths, weaknesses and tendencies of those you interact with can lead to more positive outcomes. However, if any HR department uses this as a primary driver of who they hire – run.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Worthless test, you are only getting”what people think you want to hear”, not what they actually believe.

  43. Adrian Green says:

    I’ve taken the test in different contexts – once on a business management training course and once as a psychology student during a normalisation exercise – and the results were completely different, which brought me to the conclusion that any discussion of the results was only helpful if context is taken into consideration. People react differently in different roles.

  44. karen says:

    A very accurate test indeed.

    I think the tests should be shared with coworkers with their permission.

    The reason: coworkers are not always understanding of each other. By knowing what the personality type the co worker fits in, they may have some more empathy, understanding and respect for their coworkers.

    For example…The quiet thinker may come across as being antisocial etc and can have hostility directed at them by coworkers for example.

    People should respect each other first off but using the test in this way, may help avoid some office conflict which unfortunately is a big deal in the workplace.

  45. Deb says:

    It’s simple. the best employees are fast-walkers and first-borns. In that order. Watch their walking speed and its gold. You’re welcome.

  46. Patrick says:

    MBTI was developed originally to help understand the nature of serious personality disorders. Most people sit pretty close to the cross-hairs on the four binary dimensions, and which side they fall may well vary with mood etc. (and obviously, in a recruitment context, deliberate attempts to conform to an assumed ‘preferred’ personality type for the job).

    Having said that, simply doing the test and going through the results can be helpful in making you think about the impact of your own and of other people’s personalities on behaviour. An awareness of the possibility and nature of psychological differences between people is no bad thing in navigating the workplace, or indeed life.

    But unless the requirements of the job are particularly extreme or the candidate has a significant psychopathology, it is unfair to use Myers Briggs in informing decisions about hiring and promotion.

  47. RSFischer says:

    Meyers-Briggs is a joke. Buyers of the test and takers of the test are fed a party line about how it is interlarded with questions designed to expose someone trying to “game” the test, but it’s all, to borrow a useful word from one of the commenters above, and bunch of twaddle.

    I know because I gamed the test so successfully on two different occasions when up for promotion to jobs that, according to M-B orthodoxy, called for almost completely opposite types, that on each occasion I tested as a perfect match (and won the promotion).

    The results were so striking that during my last week at this company the head of HR asked me into her office to express her amazement at both the accuracy with which my results matched what the respective jobs called for, and at the fact that one person could, over a period of about 3 years, have their personality evolve into its near complete opposite. I feigned a degree of amazement myself and offered up some half-baked “explanations” about learning on the job and about giving a lot of thought to the demands of the two jobs which maybe, in an unconscious way, influenced my choice of answers.

    Of course the real answer is that, notwithstanding those claims about it not being gameable, the test really is as simple and straightforward as it looks. Trying for a job in sales? Then how do you think you should answer “On a long bus ride, would you rather a) look out the window at the scenery, or b) talk to the person seated next to you? Right. That’s about the level of sophistication in the M-B test. Very typical of American business culture, to trust a ridiculously crude “system” instead of trusting one’s own perceptions.

  48. Vern says:

    Administering the test is one thing.

    Working at a company that faces the reality the tests reveal is another.

    When we tested my boss clearly was the team leader. His boss, not so much,

    But we continue the charade.

  49. john ledbury says:

    Any scientifically validated test has to be better than the interview. Psychologists describe the interview as ‘dogs sniffing each other’. All you can tell from an interview is whether I like this person or not. Very few jobs require the skill of ‘being interviewed’, yet every job hides behind this absurd ritual. The interview is an open invitation to every interviewer’s prejudices, acknowledged and unacknowledged.
    The best indicator of future performance is past performance, which is found from cv and references, not from whether you ‘hit it off’ with the interviewee.
    I wouldn’t use MB, but there are many scientifically crafted psychometric tests out there available to folk with BPS recognition

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