You Are Here (well, roughly, today at least)


About ten years ago I did two Myers Briggs assessments about 9 months apart.  In the first I was ESTP and in the second I was ENTP. I have all but forgotten what they mean.  It does not matter much now.  It really did then.  It helped me make a start.  As I am sure would HBDI and various other models.

I often read about how misleading, inaccurate and over simplified these tests are. 

The argument goes something like this:

The human condition is a vast and complex spectrum of characteristic and preference.  Being put in one of 16 pigeon holes is insulting and an over simplification.

As an end game I agree, totally, we are all very complicated, which is handy because I am very easily bored.

However, as a start they are invaluable.

When I am lost, what I need most is a frame of reference and some orientation. I don’t need to know precisely where I am, nor the precise route.  The detail and complexities wouldn’t sink in.  I might even lose heart and give up.

So, coaches, HR wonks and academics, remember you are often working with ordinary people who are lost.  On day one, we likely just need to know roughly where we are and which way is up. Like I leaned to count with building blocks when I was three, so I could do partial differential equations many years later.

Of course, don’t leave it at that as we will likely just get lost again, please do show us how clever you all are, just not all at once please.



5 thoughts on “You Are Here (well, roughly, today at least)

  1. There are many examples in this world of solutions looking for problems. I don’t remember, as a child, the existence of dog-walking services, the dvd-rewinder (yes, it’s true folks), the USB fridge, illuminated cup-holders in cars, etc. And throughout my working life I’ve seen the emergence or perhaps, more accurately, elevated importance of a whole raft of so-called “tests” that are supposed to better explain why we don’t always get along together while at work.

    Now, I don’t doubt there has been considerable research into all of this and that there’s probably a few Professors sitting in Harvard / Cambridge / Hull who feel rather chuffed at the thought that “those worky types” are all sitting around talking in acronyms like their lives depend on it. I should clarify that I am not in any way belittling the science of psychology which has made huge advances in understanding human behaviour in the 20th and 21st centuries. But I do feel that there are huge swathes of people in the workplace who, frankly, treat these sorts of assessments like some Nobel Prize-worthy conclusion of 20 years of academic research.

    I, too, sat a series of these tests fairly recently – about a year ago in fact. Myers Briggs was one. It was certainly not the first time I’d sat a MB test but it’s fair to say that I have no idea what four letters I was assigned the last time I did it. This time I was ENTJ. I got the feeling i was supposed to receive this news with a combination of elation and some profound sense of discovery. Instead I felt like I had been assigned to the department in the local hospital next to A&E. We went into a huge amount of detail exploring what “E” meant and why it was no better or worse than “I”. And we did this in a room with all my colleagues who were also looking at their report cards with an equal sense of befuddlement.

    The conclusion of this test, and the subsequent analysis, was supposed to help us all understand each other better so we work better together. You know what ? I think I know what my colleagues are like. I know the one who is a bit nerdy and prints his Gantt charts on A3. I know the one who is the out-there thinker who struggles with Outlook. I know the one who is the aggressive operator-type who – God help you – NEVER misses a deadline. I know the quiet one. The outspoken one. The guru. And I know me. When you stand at opposite ends of the room and the Extroverts face the Introverts, it’s not like there’s anyone in the room who says “well I never, Bob is really an extrovert. And he’s so quiet !!”.

    Then there’s the circumstances in which you take this test. We don’t do this in controlled circumstances for the most part. We do them at home, or at work, when we have the distraction of X Factor, the dog, Dave’s birthday cake, a flickering lamp, a hangover, a poorly fitting jumper, or a holiday to plan to distract us. Our mood dictates the way we answer.

    So to your point about being clever and lost, I 100% agree with you. And this coming from someone who thinks of themselves as being fairly bright, and people-aware. If I don’t see the purpose of these tests, then you can bet your acronyms that Billy-the-20-something will be totally lost. Personally, I think we would be better to spend our time analysing what we believe our weaknesses and limitations are, and what others perceive them to be, and then working on how to improve. Whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert, as dictated by Messrs Myers and Briggs, is not going to help me become a better presenter. Or a better leader. Or better at working out how the damn printer can print A3 for him and not me.

    • Hi

      I was very tempted to cut and paste that into a post of its own. Most amusing and interesting, as ever.

      I know you well enough to know that you know yourself. I think the same of myself.

      A decade ago it had never even occurred to me to think about it. I just found most people a bit weird, irritating and stupid. My ludicrous pigeon hole served to get me thinking. A process that turned out to be worthwhile and interesting.

      I often meet smart people who have yet to make a start. They routinely frustrate me with their inability to consider the needs and foibles of others.

      Did you get back from NY safely?

      Is it beer o clock yet?


  2. Have you noticed that none of these tests result in acronyms that make naughty words ? It would be much more amusing if, instead of ENTJ, you were ARSE or TITS or something. Imagine all the chuckles at Harvard when people walk around their workplaces saying “I am an ARSE, what are you ?”. Just a thought.

    I returned from New York with a renewed appreciation for all things fleecy. It made Minneapolis seem positively tropical, but I was also impressed by the American’s rigour (or should that be rigor ?) in their processes for coping with the arrival of snow.

    I do believe the Yard Arm is way past the Church Bell, or whatever the expression is. Ping me some dates and let’s record a Podcast.

    • The closest is RACI, which really ought to be ARCI but isn’t because whoever is the arbiter of corporate acronyms is from the same school of ethics that demanded that the legs on Victorian furniture be covered so as not to induce uncontrolled lust.

      I did once put a system logon system live that required that users to distinguish an arse from an elbow, yes, really. They complained and we had to take it down. It was never clear whether they objected on grounds of taste, or because they struggled to correctly identify which was which. I suspected the latter.

      Tuesday – Thursday are free. Off skiing the week after. I have a portable and adjustable yard arm, very handy…


  3. Ha! I too have spent many years wondering how a 15 year-old management consultant could figure out parts of me that even I don’t understand! It is just another way of labelling people, compartmentalising them even in a frozen state. I like the alternatives – I’ll go for RACY or WITTY…conjure up what you will to deconstruct the acronyms!

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