Quite a kerfuffle these days around the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. Is it reliable? Is it valid? Why would a reputable professional attack this well tested instrument?
Before sharing my own thoughts, let’s first recount the debate around the MBTI.
- Wharton Prof. Adam Grant attacks the MBTI in Say Goodbye to the MBTI, the Fad That won’t Die. To spare you all the academic drama, let’s just say that the complaint is that the MBTI is incomplete, a few might questions might be asked about its reliability and validity, and better instruments have been created after the MBTI’s invention.
- CPP researcher Rich Thompson replied via the CPP blog arguing that there are dozens (if not hundreds) of tests confirming the quality of the MBTI. And the end of the article he claims thousands. Anyway, it’s a lot. Additionally, millions of satisfied users must mean something.
Now these are simplified representations of the debate, but I have provided the links in case you want the full detail.
As a certified user of MBTI and someone extremely busy with executive development, I have independently reached the conclusion that the instrument has what I call truth value. Talking with participants and also via coaching conversations, I see first hand that the explanations provided by MBTI resonate and users take away insights about themselves. They can articulate why this tool helps them understand their own patterns of behavior. Next, they are often able to start talking about why a certain course of action, at one time or another, may or may not have been useful.
Simply put, insights about self emerge, and in ways that I believe are fundamentally good.
Now do I think there are better tools out there? Yes I do. I am particularly keen on the Hogan instruments (which predicts reputation, something different from the MBTI). I am also a regular user of the CPI 260.
But the MBTI has one advantage over them all–so many people have taken the test that the 4 dimensions are close to being what I would call common vocabulary. In short, people can talk to one another about the MBTI, and that common vocabulary is useful when it comes to executive development and self insight.
Like most academic debates, Prof. Grant has his sources and resources, and being a smart guy the arguments can seem difficult to disagree with. I certainly agree with him that better instruments have been developed.
But the criticism sounds hollow relative to my 25 years of academic experience. Having worked with thousands of executives, I can see first hand how useful tools like the MBTI can be.
I don’t think I will be removing the MBTI from my repertoire anytime soon–experience tells me to keep it.