People are waking up!!!
Why does the MBTI remain so popular in spite of these problems? Murphy Paul argues that people cling to the test for two major reasons. One is that thousands of people have invested time and money in becoming MBTI-certified trainers and coaches. As I wrote over the summer, it’s awfully hard to let go of our big commitments. The other is the “aha” moment that people experience when the test gives them insight about others — and especially themselves. “Those who love type,” Murphy Paul writes, “have been seduced by an image of their own ideal self.” Once that occurs, personality psychologist Brian Little says, raising doubts about “reliability and validity is like commenting on the tastiness of communion wine. Or how good a yarmulke is at protecting your head.”
Palm readings and horoscopes can spark insights too. That doesn’t mean we should talk about them in our work teams. As Little observes, “Insight from the Myers-Briggs can start that conversation, but unfortunately it often ends the conversation. You’ve got your type stamped on your forehead.”
In a Washington Post article, Does it pay to know your type? Lillian Cunningham asks whether we can send the MBTI back to the factory for some refurbishing. The response from Little: “It’s a little bit like taking a Dodge Caravan and trying to turn it into a Rolls Royce.” Instead, psychologists have spent the past half-century building a better car from scratch, using the scientific method. That car is called the Big Five personality traits, and it meets the standards above. Across many of the world’s cultures, five personality traits consistently emerge extraversion, emotional stability, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. The Big Five traits have high reliability and considerable power in predicting job performance and team effectiveness. They even have genetic and biological bases, and researchers in the emerging field of personality neuroscience have begun mapping the Big Five to relevant brain regions.
The Big Five are far from perfect, and there’s growing support for a HEXACO model of personality that adds a sixth trait: honesty-humility. Right now, though, the biggest problem facing the Big Five is one of marketing. Most people prefer to be called agreeable than disagreeable — we need to repackage this trait as supportive versus challenging. I hope some of you will take up the challenge.
Until then, we all need to recognize that four letters don’t do justice to anyone’s identity. So leaders, consultants, counsellors, coaches, and teachers, join me in delivering this message:
MBTI, I’m breaking up with you. It’s not me. It’s you.
16yrs ago in grad school, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek paper entitled, “How to get filthy stinking rich in testing and assessment.” The test I used as the best example of the perfect scam was this test. Yet, barely a year goes by without someone giving me an impassioned plea to just make their spouse see that they are not relationally flatlined (Or whatever) — it’s just their type.”
(A few years ago, I actually had a business consultant very sternly lecture me on it – telling me that if everyone was doing something and I was not buying it, I better know who would be proven wrong…)
Finally, people are waking up to the scam that this has been all along. Some are even noticing that the primary research data was provided by Jung — who didn’t really do scientific research at all. Instead, he used some sort of deductive method and then spent his later years doing seances with his house pets who he figured were conduits from somewhere beyond…
And some are just making it into humour…
That may actually drive the final nails into the coffin better than anything else…