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Personality testing debate continued -- The Myers Briggs response

In last week's Human Resource Watch, we discussed personality testing, with a cautionary viewpoint on the validity of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). We invited MBTI Thailand sole distributor Potentia to present their response.

Potentia Chairman Leigh Scott Kemmis, Business Development Manager Phanpaporn Kongpalung, and Subject Matter Expert Ploy Suriwong to explain the MBTI concept and respond to criticisms of the process. Following are our questions and their responses. For further information contact

What is MBTI and how was it established?

MBTI® stands for Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It is one of the world's most famous development tools that helps people gain insights about themselves and how they interact with others. The assessment was developed from Carl Gustav Jung's theory of personality, Psychological Types (1921), by a mother and daughter, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, in 1943. Briggs and Myers, created the indicator during World War II, believing that knowledge of personality preferences would help deter people from killing each other, and help women find the most comfortable and effective jobs in the industrial workforce. To pursue their notion, California Personality Press (CPP) became the exclusive MBTI® publisher in 1975 to continue collecting data, developing, and spreading this knowledge to as many people as possible. Our company Potentia has become the sole distributor of MBTI® assessment in Thailand and Vietnam. The company partnered with CPP since 2012, sharing the philosophy of "workplace relationships drive productivity".

How has MBTI evolved over the period to become more scientific and validated?

MBTI® is one of the strongest tools in terms of reliability and validity. The internal consistency in samples selected from hundreds of thousands who complete MBTI® form M online (covering different employment status, 9 categories of ethnicity and race, <20 to 60+ age groups and internal samples from 6 regions) assures a reliability of 0.81 -- 0.92. The test-retest reliability correlations range up to 0.81 within 4 years, indicating good reliability over long periods of time. For validity, MBTI® has been tested through 3 different processes suggesting good validity, best-fit type studies, observations of behaviour, and correlations with other instruments. More than 300 forms of the indicator have been developed up to the present time. The assessment is now used in more than 70 countries especially in the USA and Singapore, requiring the tool to be translated into more than 30 languages. Thai is the most recent language introduced.

What does MBTI aim to achieve and not achieve?

MBTI® is a development tool, not a recruitment tool. Its key benefit is for EQ developments building self-awareness and social awareness, improving self-management and relationships with others. It helps you understand yourself better by learning about your inborn preferences, helps you understand others better resulting from knowing the differences between the 16 personality types, suggests ways to develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses, and provides a powerful framework for building better relationships, driving positive change, harnessing innovation, and achieving excellence in your daily life and workplace.

Who uses MBTI and for what?

MBTI® is used mainly for self-development and teamwork building. It is applied mostly in corporate contexts (89 out of 100 companies in Fortune100) and education/ career guidance (major universities in USA, Australia, and Singapore). More than 2 million people, in the USA alone, use the tool annually. In Thailand, over 200 organisations, both local and multinational companies, government sectors and educational institutions use MBTI®. These include the Thai Civil Service Commission, Provincial Electricity Authority (PEA), the US Embassy, AIA, Pandora, many NGO institutions, and Bangkok Pattana International School.

How does MBTI train facilitators and in-house users, in order to maintain validity?

In order to conduct or facilitate workshops and give MBTI® feedback, facilitators must be certified through a 4 day program. In the program, they learn about the Type Theory, MBTI® preferences, Type dynamics theory, and Type development. They will practice giving feedback under the supervision of the master coach and team to make sure they deliver ethically. The program is interactive with lots of thought-provoking activities and at the end of each day, there is a quiz to test participants' knowledge and understanding (80% score required to pass). In addition to the 4 day Certification program, Potentia conducts regular sessions designed for MBTI® Practitioners to offer support, update and provide more information on an annual basis.

Participants include HR, leaders, teachers and business owners, who have passion for human development. Those who have budget concerns, partner with MBTI® subject matter experts to work with their teams.

There are many professionals who are critical of MBTI, including comments that test results may be inconsistent and conflicting. Why is this, and are criticisms valid?

MBTI® is a psychological tool with precise steps which need to be followed to ensure the most accurate result possible. The tool is designed to measure each person's innate preferences in his or her normal state: not under stress or in working mode. This requires the right mind-set under the supervision of trained facilitators. This is much more critical because, when we interview people who claim that MBTI® results are inconsistent and/or conflicting, one aspect they all share is the fact that they have never gone through the preliminary mind-setting process. As a consequence, they receive results that do not reflect their true personality.

Could MBTI test results suggest professional orientations or disadvantages? Might it therefore be useful as an adjunct to the recruitment process?

Since MBTI® does not measure abilities or skills that each person exhibits, we do not recommend using MBTI® alone in the recruitment process. What MBTI® gives is an overall picture of each personality type: how they are likely to behave, their values, communication styles, work styles, work preferences, to whom, where, they are naturally drawn, environments in which they are likely to thrive. This makes MBTI® more suitable for career path guidance or to design a personal developmental plan, rather than for recruitment.

How can MBTI be useful in organisational behaviour and management operations?

MBTI® can be eminently useful in various contexts: personal life, working life, and improving relationships with others. MBTI® discloses how each personality type receives their energy, how they perceive information, how they make decisions, and their attitude towards the world. Therefore, in terms of organisation, employees gain better understanding of themselves and their colleagues regarding their working style.

Christopher F. Bruton, 45 years in Thailand, is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, a local consultancy. He can be reached at Dataconsult's Thailand Regional Forum provides meetings, seminars and extensive documentation to update business on present and future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.