Myers-Briggs model / Psychometrics

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well established psychometric tool for assessing peoples preferences in decision making activities. It was developed by a mother and daughter team (Isabel Briggs Myers and Katharine Briggs) out of the work of Carl Jung.

There are always dangers in type-casting people but, used responsibly, psychometric models can provide valuable insight into:
  • Individual preferences and how to get the best out of people
  • How personality differences are entirely normal, and the implications of this for working with teams
There are many good resources available on the web, not least the Myers-Briggs site itself:, and it is not the purpose of this article to replicate these or to attempt to provide you with an understanding of your own type (which is best conducted by a trained professional).
However, we would like to provide a bit of insight into psychometrics to enable people to appreciate their usefulness in a bit more detail, and the MBTI provides a useful example to do this.
Essentially the MBTI uses four dimensions of personality (others often use more) and describes people in terms of their preferences along each of these dimensions. You can see the dimensions in the diagram on the right.
  • The first dimension is the Introvert/Extrovert scale (though it is important not to confuse this with what people may popularly understand by extroverts and introverts). This describes our need for time by ourselves and/or time with others in order to arrive at a decision we are comfortable with
  • The second dimension is the Sensing/iNtuitive scale (but again, please do not confuse this with intuition). This describes the extent to which we look to evidence and experience in arriving at a decision we are comfortable with versus how much we look to possibilities and as yet unrealised potential
  • The third dimension is the Thinking/Feeling scale (no real risk of confusion here). This describes the extent to which we employ our head (logic, rationale, hypeotheses etc.) and/or our heart (emotions, feelings, intuition) to arrive at a decision
  • And the fourth dimension in the Perceiving/Judging scale, which describes the extent to which we are comfortable with holding things open or arriving quickly at a decision.
If you are not particularly familiar with psychometric models, you may be challenging this model internally at present with a response like: I do all of those things – it depends on the decision. And you are right, we all do.
However, the purpose of the model is to describe our bias within that – our tendency, compared to the rest of the population, to lean more heavily on one side or the other. Our temptation, for instance, to apply at least a little bit of logic to an emotional situation, or to apply at least a bit of emotion to a logical one – and whether we a prone to do this more or less than the population as a whole.
For individuals within a team, psychometric models often help to explain some of the difficulties they encounter with some colleagues, and to provide a framework in which we can better appreciate each other’s strengths.
For those leading teams, it helps us to compensate for how our own biases may creep into the design of the process, and to develop approaches which are better suited (better varied) to accommodate a wider range of strengths and preferences.
Models which can help a team to understand the variety of approaches that exist, and how to work with colleagues through them, include (among many others):

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