Intro to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
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Some startup founders are lucky to know their co-founder for a long time, either growing up as friends or working together on long projects in the past.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them. Instead, I had to rely on engaging and evaluating talent, and since time is always of the essence when running a startup, I had to do it quickly.
I had to rely on engaging and evaluating talent….and I had to do it quickly.
10 years ago, I went through a rigorous executive evaluation facilitated by a highly sought after fortune 50 talent evaluator, who has been helping companies build unusually successful executive teams for 25 years (my actual full assessment is linked at the bottom of this post). We’ll call him Peter.
One of the more interesting elements was the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
After spending a full day taking tests and jumping through Peter’s various hoops, he sat down with me to discuss my results. I’ll never forget when he opened the MBTI results.
Peter looks the way you’d expect Sigmund Freud to look if he wore a bow tie and wasn’t a coke head.
Peter looks the way you’d expect Sigmund Freud to look if Sigmund Freud wore a bow tie and wasn’t a coke addict. As he opened the folder with my results, a slow, ear to ear grin came across his face. “It’s all here.” he said, in a way that made me think he had already nailed my personality type long before looking at the results.
A few years later, I started my first company (which was acquired), then I used MBTI to build the team at Sales Beach, and finally with my most recent team at RPG Labs. It’s just one piece of a comprehensive assessment, but tends to be the most fun.
This is Part 1 in a series about making better hiring, management, leadership, sales, marketing, and people decisions using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator.
Let’s dive in and explore this together.
What is Myers Briggs?
The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI, was created in the 1920s (or if that doesn’t mean anything to you, try World War II) by Swiss-born psychiatrist Carl Jung to evaluate the way individuals perceive and judge the world. For over 60 years, the MBTI has proven to be a reliable source for figuring out an individual’s specific personality type and catering it to fit their needs. Jung created the MBTI to allow women entering the workforce to find jobs best suited to their personalities. Today, it is widely used all over the globe
“Perception involves all the ways of becoming aware of things, people, happenings, or ideas. Judgment involves all the ways of coming to conclusions about what has been perceived. If people differ systematically in what they perceive and in how they reach conclusions, then it is only reasonable for them to differ correspondingly in their interests, reactions, values, motivations, and skills.” (Jung).
The dichotomies in Jung’s theory counteract with each other: the way in which we view the world (introversion/extroversion), the way we interpret information (sensing/intuition), when formulating and making decisions based on logic or how their decision affects people (thinking/feeling), and the way in which we complete tasks/view individuals (judging/perceiving).
The MBTI has sixteen different descriptions, made up of one of each of the four categories described above. These categories can be put in any sort of combination, and each performs a specific function. For example, INFJ (introverted, intuition, feeling, judging) is vision and meaning oriented on a broad scale. They are insightful and are peacemakers. They love language and symbols, and have a very resilient and persevering spirit to better inspire others. These types are usually role models, and appropriately nicknamed “The Advocate”, as they stand up for their rights and the rights of others, especially those who may not be able to speak for themselves.
These different personality types are useful in helping people decide what job best fits them. They are individualized to create a higher sense of self-discovery.
Extraversion vs. Introversion
How do you direct and receive energy?
Does interacting with people energize you, or is it draining? Extroverts get their energy from socializing and working with people, while introverts get their energy by spending time alone.
This has nothing to do with your social prowess, so to speak. It’s all about where you get your energy. I’ve known many introverts who are socially intelligent and eloquent, and many extraverts who are not.
Of the four preferences, this one is the easiest to identify in yourself and others.
This makes up the first letter, E vs. I.
Intuition vs. Sensing
How do you take in information?
Do you prefer to see possibilities and potential futures, or do you prefer concrete real world examples you can experience with your five senses? Are you more interested in realities or concepts?
Chances are, if you use the internet for more than utility and socializing, you prefer the abstract, potentials, and possibilities of the world.
Thinking vs. Feeling
How do you make decisions and come to conclusions?
Repeat after me: “Feeling does not mean emotion”.
Write it down.
Visualize separating the word ‘Feeling’ from ‘Emotion’ in your brain soup, and placing ‘Feeling’ in a special bowl labeled ‘Non emotion’.
I’ll wait here.
Got it? Cool.
Thinkers rationalize their decisions using logic, and Feelers rationalize their decisions with how they impact other people or align with their personal values. I say rationalize because my current belief about decision making is that we are emotional creatures who make emotion based decisions which we then rationalize with either Thinking or Feeling.
Perceiving vs. Judging
How do you approach the outside world?
Do you prefer to work within a tight schedule or do you like to leave room for flexibility?
Are you more comfortable after you’ve made a decision or before?
Do you keep your workspace and home meticulously organized, or is it organized chaos?
Are you always on time for appointments, or frequently late?
Would your friends describe you as chill?
If you prefer a tight schedule, keep an organized workspace, and are frequently on time, you likely prefer judging and get a lot of shit done.
If you’re chill, flexible and spontaneous you likely prefer Perceiving.
Put it all together, and you’ve got an informative 4 letter name for everybody you know, including yourself.
In part 2, we’ll explore the idea of ideal types for founders, and try to answer the question “Are there ideal types for the Holy Trinity of startup teams? (Hustler, Builder, Designer)”.
Take it a step further by checking out the links below, and soon, an RPG Labs assessment.
Tim’s Assessment by Dr. Peter Marston, PhD
Online Assessments (Find your type)
MBTI Online — the official MBTI test ($49 bucks)
16 Personalities Test— Free, similar questions to the official MBTI test. Wins the award for best design (until RPG unveils our own)
When Myers Met Briggs — Myers Briggs Hobbyists take a non-serious approach to talking about MBTI. Kaila and Meredith are smart and fun; we talked last week.
Personality Hackers — More structured and scientific, but also more ‘pay us for an ebook’ type stuff. I like their ‘driver’ model for functional stacks.
RPG Labs boards for each type, created by me and the RPG labs team.