On Myers-Briggs, Spaghetti Sauce and Getting Things Done

Connie, our HR director came few weeks ago with interesting idea: give the team a chance to get better understanding of “implementation details” of their very own “inner software” – the personality type evaluation using Myers-Briggs approach. Connie holds certification for this type of classification.

The classification in a nutshell, assigns to everybody four letters, one from each pair: E or I, N or S, T or F, J or P. The first letter indicates preference for Extraversion or Introversion, the second characterizes the main source of information input: Sensation or iNtuition, the third the way how the information is processed – by Thinking or Feeling and the last one characterizes the degree of “structure” and organization in all the previous: more organized and structured (Judging) or less organized and more ad-hoc (Perceiving). Now all this is terrible oversimplification (sorry Connie), so if you really want to get more information try this – or if you are in Ottawa, call Connie Deschamps at Thinknostic dot com and schedule a session :-).

The evaluation consists of three parts:
– self-service questionnaire consisting of 93 questions via Web
– review and validation in 1:1 session
– the workshop

During last two weeks we have done round of Meyers-Briggs evaluation in the Thinknostic employee team. Not a big surprise, we ended up being heavier on I and T types (which is implied by the type of business we are in), as well as very heavy on N and P – which may be related to relatively small size and start-up phase of the company.

The really interesting part was the workshop, which consisted of exercises showing how different types process/think differently. Even if you know who is who (we have agreed to share our results) – it is amazing to see the differences at work. It was real eye opener for several people, including myself. I think that the more away you are from SF (the more away from pragmatic people-oriented focus you have), the more surprises and really new information you may get. I certainly learned few things (being an INTP) and will try to remember it next time I may be dealing with people who kind of seems to be “just incompatible” with my way of seeing the world. I will try harder – as somebody did put it nicely “… to respect our different points of view, however wrong yours may be” 🙂

Why understanding of this things matters ? One area that is very obvious are different methodologies and approaches to personal productivity, for example GTD. They seem to work extremely well for certain people, sort-of-work for some and fail miserably for others. I have nagging suspicion that these tools and software based on them are heavily oriented towards the J types, and even more towards SJ combinations (the I-E and T-F preference have probably lesser impact).

The portions of GTD that work well for NP’s are “calendar tickle file” – you need future reminders when you operate in ad-hoc mode and do not naturally follow repetitive schedules. You also need to use lists – but you use them in different context. While for SJ people the list is sequence of steps, a plan of execution (often hierarchical) for N it is mixture of list-of-alternatives, steps and ideas, usually all overlapping and interconnected – more hypertext than a linear list. The part of GTD that NP like me has biggest trouble with are the weekly reviews.

On the other hand, exactly these areas that are natural for SJ can be biggest gain for NP’s if we can find the software or tool that makes it us more like SJ – but the NP way. Is there such software ?

As the long tail and spaghetti sauce teaches us, the future is in selling less to more. Maybe considering writing customized PIM for the personality type is not such crazy idea after all. What do you think ?

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