A test of personality

Apart from the job hunting which defines my life these days, I’ve also been following a course in Project Management to hone my sense of the skills and lingo used and expected in working life outside of academia.

Though the course does carry hints of the Dilbertesque, it is refreshing in its unwavering focus on the practical application of the ideas developed within the field. And at times, this focus does take a detour into eccentricity.

One example of this is the concept of personality tests. In order to assemble the most effective project team, you need to recruit people whose personalities and skills match. Skills are easy to assess, personality slightly more tricky. So what is a project manager to do? He hands out tests! In the course, we took a few of these tests to get a feel for them and how they work. And appropriately, we are also using the results of these tests as a basis to define the project groups for our course.

The first test was the Belbin Team Inventory, which was created by management theorist Meredith Belbin. Belbin had found that a management team required eight different roles to be filled within the team in order to be effective. These roles he called:

  • Chairman (the confident, charismatic leader)
  • Plant (the creative idea generator)
  • Shaper (the energetic driver)
  • Resource Investigator (the extrovert networker)
  • Company Worker (the disciplined administrator)
  • Team Worker (the social, empathic collaborator)
  • Monitor/Evaluator (the analytically-minded arbiter)
  • Finisher (the careful, hardworking perfectionist)
  • Based on these 8 types, Belbin devised a personality test that would identify which roles a given person would be suited for when working in a team.

    The test is based on groups of 8 statements – on for each type. You have to allocate 10 points on the statements, and at the end of the test, your scores are added up, and you can find out which types you’re aligned with, and which ones you suck at. The top category defines your best abilities and the second and third highest scoring categories also define your strengths. The 2 to 3 lowest-scoring types are obviously your weak points.

    My high scoring categories were:

    1. Monitor/Evaluator
    2. Chairman
    3. Plant

    And my lowest scoring ones were:

    6. Administrator
    7. Resource Investigator
    8. Shaper

    Apparently, that means that I’m good at the overall strategic planning, the analysis, the idea generation and the coordinating and motivating of others, and bad at the actual practical administration, networking and taking bold new initiatives. I suppose that’s not entirely untrue. Yet to think that companies actually and seriously use such a test as a basis to hire people and create teams is really weirding me out.

    The other test was the Myers Brigg type indicator test which doesn’t focus on your team work ability but rather uses Jungian archetypes as a basis to define you as a person. The test consists of a long list of statements to which have to agree or disagree. These statements end up defining you in 4 dichotomies:

  • Introverted – Extroverted (your social attitude and behaviour)
  • Sensing – Intution (how you perceive and interprete new information: Sensing people prefer to trust information that is in the present, tangible and concrete, while intuitive people tend to trust information that is more abstract or theoretical)
  • Thinking – Feeling (how you make decisions: Feeling people come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, while Thinking people decide things by measuring what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent and matching a given set of rules.
  • Judging – Perceiving (Your preference for using either your Judging function (Thinking or Feeling) or your Perceiving Function (Sensing or Intuition) in relating to the world around you. Thus, whatever function you favour will come across as a much stronger part of your personality)
  • Based on your answers, you are labelled as one of 16 types, based on Carl Jung’s archetypes. There’s a free version of the test here.

    Now, I took this test twice, once in the Danish version recommended in the course, and once in the free version above. And amazingly enough, the results turned out pretty much the same. My type is what they call INFP, which is short for “Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving.”

    The INFP type is apparently often caring, curious, and idealistic persons who don’t deal well with hard logic and impersonal judgements. I think that is quite fitting of me, as well. I find this discrepancy between the analytical stance uncovered in the Belbin test and the caring, idealistic stance in the Myers Brigg test quite interesting. Because I often do feel detached and contemplative, and prone to analytical cynicism, yet I really hate it when I come to such conclusions: My idealism tends to overpower it. It is a fascinating dynamic, and I’m surprised to find it in such personality tests that are often so easily discounted.

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