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The Inventivity Pod
How the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator Works

Beloved by corporate HR departments and government agencies alike, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator measures personality types. Betsy Styron, board chairman of the Myers-Brigg Foundation, explains how the assessment works and what it should and shouldn’t be used for.  An introvert herself, Betsy powers through a great interview. *This episode was originally released on July 11, 2019.*




Intro: 0:01
Inventors and their inventions. Welcome to Radio Cade a podcast from the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention in Gainesville, Florida. The museum is named after James Robert Cade, who invented Gatorade in 1965. My name is Richard Miles . We’ll introduce you to inventors and the things that motivate them, we’ll learn about their personal stories, how their inventions work, and how their ideas get from the laboratory to the marketplace personality.

Richard Miles: 0:39
It’s not just a song. It’s a test, specifically, a test called Myers Briggs type indicator. My name is Richard Miles, ENTJ. My guest today is Betsy Styron. INTP the President and CEO of the Center for Application of Psychological Type and chairman of the board of the Myers and Briggs Foundation. Welcome Betsy .

Betsy Styron: 0:57
Thank you. Good to be here.

Richard Miles: 0:59
So, the initials I rattled off after names are one of what? 16 Myers Briggs type indicator, I think. And I’ve taken that many times working for the federal government. And after 20 years, I just barely shifted from INTJ to ENTJ in fact, according to test , I have no personality at all. So I don’t know what it says about me working for the federal government or, or whatnot, but Betsy, why don’t we start out by educating our listeners for those who are not familiar? What exactly Myers-Briggs is tell us what does it measure and how does it measure it?

Betsy Styron: 1:31
Okay, let’s call it the NBTI Myers Briggs Type Indicator. And the word indicator simply means it indicates a preference. So we’re looking at four scales and there are two opposite sides. So let’s start with introversion extroversion, which are opposite. So I happen to be an introvert. So when I took the NBTI and got my results, essentially it pointed to introversion as a preference. We don’t like to use the word test. We call it an indicator because there was really no right or wrong answer. We all do both. I couldn’t be talking with you without extroverting. It really is about two scales. And you just prefer one over the other. The analogy that is most often used is like being right handed or left handed. You have the preference that you lead with the preference, where you get more energy. You’re typically a little bit more accomplished with that one, but we all use both hands. There will be times like now, with me with a preference for introversion that I’m talking and I’m animated about it because the topic is very interesting to me and there are four scales. And we can talk about those a little bit later, if you would like.

Richard Miles: 2:46
So let’s take that as an example, introversion, extroversion, what are some sample questions for instance, on the NBTI, in which you try to suss that out, whether somebody has a preference for introversion or extroversion.

Betsy Styron: 2:58
There are multiple items that measure the different scales. And when you sit down and take it, they’re all integrated in a way that you can’t figure out, you know, am I doing the block of questions related to this or that, but essentially, a question might be, if you have a choice to want to go out tonight and be social, or would you rather prefer to stay at home? That’s not a direct question, but the whole idea of the items is to get at the essence of what the preference means. Introversion and extroversion really is about energy. And it’s not so much about talking, which is also misunderstood. So that introverts get energized by going inward. And if we’re put into a situation where like one time early in my life, I was a school teacher , I was talking a lot. You’ll come home at the end of the day. I didn’t want to talk to anybody at the end of the day. You know , I just needed a little bit of downtime and the opposite is true for an extrovert. They get energized by interacting and wanting to go out and do things and may work all day and have a spouse of an opposite preference. And one spouse says to the other, well, let’s go out and have dinner and then go over and see friends. And the introvert might say, just give me a little bit of time before we do that. We all do both, but you just get more energy from one of the other.

Richard Miles: 4:22
The, the times that I took the NBTI and I , again, I probably took it at least four or five times in the state department. I think they weren’t quite sure who we were and they wanted to keep validating who we were. But I remember what followed after we took the test , er, I know, I know it’s not a test, but was these practical exercises in which they would divide us up into our personality types. And I was amazed at how accurately predicted our preferences when they gave us a practical exercise. For instance, I remember the one that we were given was you’re about to leave on vacation and you’ve got two days to get ready, write a list of all the things that you would do before you go on this trip. And the group I was in, came up with a list of like 25 things, cancel the paper, take the cat to the vet. And then there’s another group that basically like, get your passport out of the drawer and go to the airport. That was it. And it was really stunning. The difference. So there has been though a little bit of pushback, right? About the NBTI. What are some of the criticisms out there and how would you address them?

Betsy Styron: 5:18
I think one of the biggest criticisms that isn’t really so, is that the assessment is not reliable or valid and that’s just not accurate. Last year, the global version in English was released throughout the world, and there were separate chapters in the manual, one on the validity, and then one the reliability as part of my role in the Myers and Briggs foundation. I read that whole manual. And I don’t know the reason why some people in the academic community have not really acknowledged the NBTI and the psychometrics associated with those in terms of it being sound. And it may simply have just been a carry over from an older time because the NBTI has been around for a long time. As a matter of fact, Isabel basically created it during the time of the second world war, because she wanted to see that people were satisfied or well-matched in the kinds of jobs that they were going into, especially because it was important for those people to do those jobs well. So that’s what gave her the idea to create the indicator.

Richard Miles: 6:22
That’s a perfect segue in talking about the history of NBTI talking about Isabel , Isabel Myers, is that correct?

Betsy Styron: 6:28
That’s right.

Richard Miles: 6:28
So let’s go ahead and who was she? What was her background and how did it come together in the NBTI?

Betsy Styron: 6:34
Okay. So she was the daughter of Lyman and Catherine Briggs. Lyman, Interesting enough. Her father was the head of the Bureau of standards under three presidents in the United States. So they lived in Washington, DC, I think not far from probably where you have a home up there, there’s a row of colonial beautiful homes up there. And so she grew up there. She was mostly homeschooled by her mother. She did have an occasional governess who came in and taught other topics,

Richard Miles: 7:05
Betsy, what year are we talking about? Roughly what decade?

Betsy Styron: 7:08
She was born in 1897,

Richard Miles: 7:09
Ok, so turn of the last century.

Betsy Styron: 7:11
So, yeah, and I think having read a number of things that her mother wrote in there are papers that are at the University of Florida. I don’t want to take us off track, but I think she saw Isabel in some ways as a development project of how to have Isabel be all that she could be. So, her mother was very observant and took notes of what she did and how she behaved and how she learned and all those things. So her mother’s fascination with the topic and her fascination with Carl Jung and his theory of psychological type had a lot of impact on how she developed, but she was mostly homeschooled.

Richard Miles: 7:52
And the questions themselves and the NBTI. How have they evolved over time? I’m guessing that few years, is there sort of like a validation exercise where you decide, is that still a good question or not? Or how does that work?

Betsy Styron: 8:06
Yes, there are revisions and the publisher, the Myers-Briggs company is responsible for those and yes, it’s periodic and it’s based on how a cultural terms change and things like that. Just to keep it current. The global version that was released last year, basically went through a reliability and validity studies in Europe people who might live in France or whatever it makes sure that it was still working in those places.

Richard Miles: 8:36
Right. Okay. Let’s talk about the use of the NBTI. And I know there’s a distinction between what the recommendations are from, you know, Myers-Briggs foundation and then how companies , organization to actually use them. So let’s talk about what is sort of the most common way in which an organization, whether it’s a nonprofit or government entity or private corporation, if they administered this to their employees, what do they expect the employees to do with that information? What do they themselves organizations to do with it? And then as a comment, I think it’s not surprising that organizations often find they’re populated heavily by one particular type, right? Because there are certain aspects of that type that draw them to that profession in the first place.

Betsy Styron: 9:19
Well, yeah, and I think profession is the key word, not to take us off track, but medicine and specialty selection is an perfect example of that. And who’s attracted to family practice versus surgery. But getting back to your question of how is it most often used term we use is how is it applied? So a company might decide, let’s say to take their leadership team and give them the indicator. And they might be focusing on communication. You know, how we communicate with one another. It might be focused on leadership development in larger companies. Sometimes it’s around specific tasks . A story that comes to mind for me is my nephew who lives here in Gainesville. He went to Vanderbilt, became a mechanical engineer. He went to a company where they put him into a design department. He is a sensing type, which is a concrete, factually based person. And when he was put into the design department, which really requires enjoying more, the intuitive, big idea perspective, he really decided the job that he had wasn’t for him. He came back home and decided to go to medical school, which he did. And now he’s a musculoskeletal radiologist. Perfect job for him. But the differences between what he enjoyed and how he was able to enact his job is a contrast. It’s , that’s why I think it’s a good story. Right. So when you think about college students, as well as the workplace it’s okay. So what is it about this job or this future that fits for you? Now? Something we always say is all types can do all things. It really doesn’t have anything to do with your intelligence, your ability, your skill, your interest, any of those things.

Richard Miles: 11:08
Is it hard or does it come easy? Right?

Betsy Styron: 11:10
Right. And so do you want to do it? And one of the reasons I brought up medicine is because Isabel Myers worked with our founding president at Cap, Dr. Mary McAuley, who was a clinical psychologist at the college of medicine at the time. And so they did a very large research study together on medical specialties and who self selected to go into those specialties. You really don’t want a surgeon who has a very clear preference for intuition saying, what do you do with this? I got an idea. That’s just not . So, so typically you find mostly sensing types in surgery who have a more concrete way of seeing the world.

Richard Miles: 11:55
Do you know of any instances in which either organizations or individuals that use the NBTI where , you know, somebody said like, Oh wow. I’m not going to go into that field of study are not going to go into that profession cause it’s, I think probably totally unsuited for me. And it came maybe as a surprise or to organizations do be like, Oh , okay. We’re definitely not letting you know that the INTJ’s be the welcome greeters at the door. Cause they’re terrible at it. Anything like that?

Betsy Styron: 12:21
Yeah . Our position is that you shouldn’t use it that way. I mean, this is a preference. You go to your preference first. It doesn’t mean that you don’t develop the non-preferred side of yourself as I’m an introvert. I love to talk about things I care about. You know, so you don’t want to be stereotypical, I guess is the best word to say.

Richard Miles: 12:39
Put somebody in a box. These four letters define your future.

Betsy Styron: 12:39
Yeah, no . And actually there are areas of misuse in the corporate world with type, this is a perfect example that, you know, you might be limited, you know, and that would be coming from above. But every time we have an opportunity, those of us who are leaders in this field say, no, that’s, that’s really not. You should not, you shouldn’t be using it that way because we all have the ability. I mean, it doesn’t measure intelligence. It doesn’t measure, experience, interests . Any of those things, all it is it’s , it’s a , it’s like being right handed or left handed. As I said, in the beginning, you have a preference to be one way, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t develop another side or that we can’t all do all things. We wouldn’t be well-developed if we didn’t.

Richard Miles: 13:25
Let’s talk a little bit like, as I indicated earlier on, I actually changed. I tipped over from being slightly introverted to slightly extroverted. Is that just sort of a random nature of some of the questions in which if I answer one or two differently, it tips me over or is there somebody that shows that people actually can migrate over time in terms of their personality preferences and then linked to that is right . The intensity, the score, right? Cause on both my scores, I was only mildly introverted and then mildly extrovert . So was pretty much dead center. It just, I tipped over just enough to go into the other quadrant. What does your research tell you about migration? Right? From one type to another, what is the intensity indicate? You know, whether someone’s a strong introvert or mild extrovert, how does that factor in?

Betsy Styron: 14:11
Okay, so there’s three different. What we call steps of the NBTI step one measures your basic type preferences. And it just means the form with the questions are different. There is step two, which measures 20 facets that have been identified through the scoring process. For example, I too am an introvert, but I am an expressive introvert. Okay. So expressive is an extroverted facet. So if, when I took step two, I found out I was of preference on two scales. I’m an expressive introvert and I’m a planful perceiving type. So planful is a facet that relates to the judging, perceiving, judging, being decisive and wanting closure on things and perceiving being spontaneous and flexible. I think in my role as a CEO being planful is quite helpful. So there, there are 20 different facets that you might be out of preference. And that’s a nuanced version of the NBTI.

Richard Miles: 15:29
So Betsy, this show is primarily about inventors and entrepreneurs and having lived in Gaines with a long time. I know you interact with a lot of both categories and vendors, entrepreneurs. Have you noticed, is there a predominant NBTI type of person that is drawn to want to invent something or want to start a business? It seems to be a definite extraordinary willingness to take risks sometimes in the face of all available evidence.

Betsy Styron: 15:53
Well, that’s a , that’s a good question. I think if we stick with the principle that anybody, regardless of their type can do anything they want to do. I think the only preference that I would say that might relate to entrepreneurs would be intuition, intuition in terms of ideas, you know, people who have a preference for intuition or just like a lot of different ideas, like to explore a lot of different things. But does that mean that the opposite preference of that sensing in which is concrete and someone who’s who it see , it’s even hard for me as an intuitive to describe it. It’s always interesting to me because you have to put your mind around what, you know, versus how it feels because I’m not very concrete. So I can think of different professions that maybe relate to science where the specific detail of the research is so very important. And so there may be something else fueling their desire to stick with it. Do you understand what I’m saying?

Richard Miles: 16:54
So in the NBTI as sensing and intuition are kind of opposite. And so in, in the kind of stereotypical idea of the S person that would be somebody who is very much going to go by the book, or very much, depending on the known facts , and the intuition side is like, Hey, anything’s possible. And we’ll just see what happens.

Betsy Styron: 17:17
Okay. Yeah. That’s true. So let’s just quickly go through the four scales because you get a four letter type. Right? Okay. So the first scale is introversion and extroversion. And essentially that is where your energy comes from. If you are an introvert. Um, and you’ve been talking all day, which is extroverted, you’re going to want to go inside at some point to reenergize yourself and vice versa.

Richard Miles: 17:44
Now is that first because you consider that sort of the most important framework in which to look at the other aspects or is that just, is it random the order in which those types,

Betsy Styron: 17:52
So when you get your type, so , um , you said you’re an INTJ?

Richard Miles: 17:56

Betsy Styron: 17:56
ENTJ. Okay, so that I couldn’t remember where they, okay, lets just take ENTJ. You know, you can either extrovert all day and that energizes you, but there will come a time during that day where you need to introvert. It could be because of a project , uh , you know, you have to solve a problem or simply, you know, whatever you’re doing demands or you want to, you know, we have to look at it as being right-handed and left-handed just for the general public to think about it, got to do both. And we would be really one sided if we didn’t. The next scale is how you gather information and that’s either through sensing or intuition. So sensing being, you like to gather information in a concrete way, sometimes thinking about things sequentially, and if you have a preference for intuition, then you’re using things that maybe just can’t put your finger quite on, a hunch, or it could be that you have read something or learn something that inspired you to think about another idea.

Richard Miles: 19:03
Got it .

Betsy Styron: 19:03
So you can be creative with that and always keeping in mind that we have to do both. Otherwise we wouldn’t be effective as a person.

Richard Miles: 19:12
Yeah, well I wouldn’t be alive.

Betsy Styron: 19:14
Well, we prefer it . We’re better at it. And you can get stuck in going into that side. You prefer more. And I mean, I am famous when driving with directions cause I have a preference for intuition going , Oh , you know, it’s a mile or two away. then like you’re 15 miles later. It’s like, okay, I didn’t get that right because I think you’re not quite as good and as accurate with you’re non preferential side.

Richard Miles: 19:41
So Google maps has ruined your world, you know?

Betsy Styron: 19:43
Oh no, actually I love Google maps if it talks to me, but yeah.

Richard Miles: 19:48
As long as that’s encouraging, right?

Betsy Styron: 19:49
Yes, exactly. Exactly.

Richard Miles: 19:51
So that we’ve done the first two letters and then the what’s the third?

Betsy Styron: 19:55
Okay. So thinking and feeling,

Richard Miles: 19:56
Thinking and feeling. Got it.

Betsy Styron: 19:57
Okay. So yeah. So people who have a preference for thinking and feeling, this is how you judge and decide is if you have a preference for feeling, you’re going to care more about how you feel about someone else feels it’s a values based decision making, thinking on the other side is based on logical decision making. And do you use that word is a little difficult because it implies that you might not be logical if you’re feeling type and that’s not true. I remember it, it always comes back to both, but you just go to your strength. So as a thinking decision maker that I am in, you are too. So I really want to go learn more about something I want to, as much as I can find out about it, ask questions to learn more. I have to work at, especially because I’m in a leadership position, if I say something, I want to be careful how I say it. Right. You know, and my humor might sneak in there and say something that could be hurtful to somebody and come across as sarcastic when I wouldn’t mean it that way. So your non-preferred side is just not as easy and facile.

Richard Miles: 21:15
Yeah. Yeah. It strikes me that people who are tilt towards that T side, a lot of academics, a lot of writers, you know , a lot of people in the chattering class right? Where they’re , they’re mostly, they love, they’re drawn to kind of the information based nature of a , of a problem. And as you said, they might not be quite as strong in the communication with an organization.

Betsy Styron: 21:35
Yeah. And for me, with my type, I’m a dominant, introverted thinking type. My mind, continuously solving problems quietly inside. So if I’m working on writing a paper or something like that, I can be driving home and be analyzing it in my head, what I’m doing. And it’s easier to describe what we do personally than it is what other people are doing it, but each of us, but each of us has a dominant. And so you lead with that, but like, I can go back to that left hand, right. Hand analogy. We all do both. And with age type development is really important. I am much different from when I was in my twenties. As a matter of fact, as a leader , uh , in my twenties, I might not even think about how somebody might respond to something I said, or I was critical in a way that wasn’t as considerate is it might have been. So the good news is with type as a lifelong developmental model that as we age, we become more effective in our non preferred side.

Richard Miles: 22:44
Where there too many things that are universal. I think one universal thing is everyone who’s in their fifties, cringes at their self, in their twenties,

Betsy Styron: 22:50
Oh absolutely, oh yes.

Richard Miles: 22:50
Looking back on the things you said or did and then thought and like, Oh my God .

Betsy Styron: 22:56
Yes, how many times did you want to put those words back in your mouth? Right?

Richard Miles: 22:59
So that leaves us with one final letter, right? What’s the , the final dimension?

Betsy Styron: 23:03
It’s your orientation to life, basically how you go about , uh , so some people are spontaneous and want to, this is the JP scale judging, perceiving scale, people who are perceiving don’t mind a plan necessarily, but tend to want to just be spontaneous and do something that’s right in the moment. And they might be more flexible and adaptable than a person who has a preference for judging. So if you have a preference for judging, you tend to be planful. Um, you know, the famous example of that is who makes lists and who doesn’t typically people with a preference for judging will make lists about things they have to accomplish that day. That week, that month, that year perceiving types are much less likely to do that. They want to say, okay, I’ve got one or two things that I know that I’m going to do today. The third, fourth, and fifth things that could be today, that could be tomorrow. I might not ever get around to it. And it’s really interesting. I think in couples, this is one of the areas that there’s, it creates more problems because , uh, you know, for example, my husband is , has a preference for judging and I have a preference for perceiving. I’m much more laid back about whether it gets done or it doesn’t. And then sometimes he’ll say, but we said we were going to do that. So he gets his mind focused on that, which well, and I did say that, but somewhere along the line, I changed my mind, which I am sure.

Richard Miles: 24:35
You forgot to tell him you changed your mind.

Betsy Styron: 24:37
Exactly, exactly. Which you know,

Richard Miles: 24:39
I assure you’re the only married couple to which that’s ever happened. It doesn’t happen to anybody.

Betsy Styron: 24:42
Yeah. Right, right, exactly. But it’s good to know. As a matter of fact, sometimes people want to give the NBTI as a wedding present to couples that are getting ready to get married. That whoever’s doing the feedback, which by the way is required when you take the assessment, did you have a feedback on all four scales with your results, one on one with somebody who’s been trained to do that, Because the verification process is really important. If you see the results and you say, well, that’s who I am. If you didn’t say explain it to the person in that feedback process and there’s a whole protocol for that, that we don’t need to get into here, but it’s very important for people to understand it’s their life, their type. And maybe they’re not real clear about a preference. So then they can work on that over time. Although the research does show the older that you get, the more clear you are in your head, that it’s the right preference.

Richard Miles: 25:40
So that actually sets up my final question Betsy and basically, if somebody who’s already in a job they’re already in a profession, maybe they’ve been in it for several years. If they take the NBTI and find out like, oops, I’m not really suited for my current position. What is generally the advice given to them? I mean, change their jobs or do they work on changing themselves?

Betsy Styron: 25:59
I don’t think either choice really, unless they want to change jobs. I mean, we don’t really want our type preferences to dictate us. We want to think about what makes us happy, what our skills are and all of those sorts of things. I think that we probably naturally tend if we’re in positions that allow us to do it, is to focus on the kinds of things we do well. And maybe either delegate to people who are , you know, might do the thing that you’re not thinking you’re doing so well, or figure out another kind of solution with that. I think that for me, if something doesn’t quite fit, then I looking for somebody in the organization that say, would you help me with this? Or are you willing to take responsibility and just delegate it? Or if you’re working with a peer and this is really important and teamwork, as a matter of fact , uh , cat publishes a leadership and team assessment where it integrates the NBTI with leadership. And so then within the team, as the leader, you can say, okay, this is what needs to be done. Who would like to volunteer for this? Or would you like to partner with somebody? I think the overall message is understanding type enriches, how effective you can be if you know yourself. But if you know each other’s types, it really is helpful just knowing your type. It gave me some information and not in a stereotypical kind of way about what might be important in terms of getting to the heart of what you’re asking. Does that make sense to you?

Richard Miles: 27:41
Well, on that note, I’m Betsy sincere a self identified introvert, and I tend towards introversion. This conversation has exhausted us, right? It’s your time to bring it to a close, we’re going to go home and take a nap and recover . Well , we can deal with the rest of the world, but Betsy, thank you very much for being on Radio Cade, it’s a fascinating subject. I find it fascinating at least. I know you do, best of luck with the center and with the foundation and look forward to having you back on the show.

Betsy Styron: 28:03
Thank you so very much.

Richard Miles: 28:05
I am Richard Miles.

Outro: 28:07
Radio Cade would like to thank the following people for their help and support Liz Gist of the Cade Museum for coordinating and vendor interviews. Bob McPeak of Heartwood Soundstage in downtown Gainesville, Florida for recording, editing and production of the podcast and music theme, Tracy Collins for the composition and performance of the Radio Cade theme song featuring violinist , Jacob Lawson and special thanks to the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention located in Gainesville, Florida.

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