Sunday, March 29, 2009

Experimenting with personality tests

A few jobs back, my workgroup ran into a storm of trouble.  The group didn’t agree on goals or methods, respect for one another flagging, and communications had deteriorated to a point where people were withholding data, refusing to exchange ideas. The research director asked the company president, a scientist himself, to spend a few days with the group sorting through the issues.  His approach was pretty direct: Someone in this room is the source of the trouble, and we’re going to find it and solve it.

For the next week, we thrashed out the conflicts and, each day, someone would say that they couldn’t possibly be the source of the problem since they weren’t party to events.  As people left one by one, the group shrank, the remainder cowered, and the whole exercise began to resemble an extended game of musical chairs.  Finally, a friend called  around to warn us that he was going to recuse himself in the morning , prompting a final mass exodus as all of us did the same.

‘Feeling like this accomplished little, I took the initiative to visit a career counselor.  He gave me a Meyer-Briggs test, a form of personality assessment based in Jungian psychology that classifies people along four dimensions: Introvert/Extrovert, Sensing/ Intuitive, Thinking/Feeling,  and Judging/Perceiving.  You can take the test here for free.

I am an INTJ, a type described as “strong individualists who seek new angles or novel ways of looking at things. They enjoy coming to new understandings, tend to be insightful and mentally quick, and are determined people who trust their vision of the possibilities, regardless of what others think. They are comfortable working alone and have low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are not susceptible to catchphrases and commonly do not recognize authority based on tradition, rank or title.”

Reviewing the results, the counselor told me that our problem was that I was part of a group that was entirely made up of people like myself.  It helped me to think about the role of personality in group interactions, and the importance of balancing various types to form an effective workgroup.

It came back to me a over the weekend as I listened to an interview with Dr. Helen Fisher.  She created a new personality inventory rooted in genetic research and neurochemistry: You can take it here.

I am an Explorer /Director, a type she describes as “a skywalker: You love adventure, both intellectual and physical. And you greet new challenges with passion and bravery. When you get interested in a project, you can become extremely focused on it, sometimes to the exclusion of all around you. You complete it carefully and thoroughly, often with great originality. And because you have a lot of energy and tend to be enthusiastic about your ideas, inventions, and projects, you can be very persuasive. You tend to like to collect things, experiences or ideas. And you are eager to make an impact on those around you, as well as the wider world. Although you enjoy people and can be charming and humorous, you are not very interested in routine social engagements or boring people. You are comfortable being by yourself, pursuing your own interests. People probably call you a non-conformist, an original. You like to have good conversations on important topics. People tend to admire you for your innovativeness. You make an exciting, though at times distant, companion.”

Good fun, and flattering.  While the results can feel like casting horoscopes, I do think that personality is a fundamental quality governing our  social interactions.and that understanding our own personality strengths and shortcomings is important to success in work and personal life.

A good interview with the slightly manic and sometimes annoying Dr Fisher can be heard here, but don’t listen until after you finish taking her test.

  P.S.: If you want to have your personality type determined through an analysis of your blog (yes, your blog), click here to connect to TypeAnalyzer.

No comments: