Sunday, March 15, 2020

MBTI - Astrology for HR Professionals !

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A big market downturn is also a time for personal reflection. After the Friday 13th panic where I unloaded stocks to shore up my margin account ratio, I had to distract myself. This time around, I chose to read a book on the Myer-Briggs Type Indicator, a personality profiling system largely dismissed by the academic community but generally quite successful in the business world.

In my view, when a system does not have the firm backing of the scientific community, it belongs to the same class of belief systems as Astrology. My opinion is that technical analysis, the capital assets pricing model and the efficient markets hypothesis, all fall under this category. Consequently, I do not like to dismiss Astrology, being a huge fan of good and somewhat random advice in many Astrology columns. Up till today, I have yet to see an astrologer advise Capricorns that this week would be a good week to murder an insurance agent or commit money laundering. In a similar vein, technical analysts do have a respectable approach to risk position sizing and emotional management.

I will not really explain what the MBTI is. I think readers should try to find some online test and figure it out yourselves - there are plenty of tools on the Internet for this purpose. I was aware of the weaknesses of this system - I tested ESTJ in JC but recent online assessment have tested ENTJ. The context of an engineering career makes a person highly practical and data-driven., a luxury a lawyer might not be able to enjoy. Legal training tends to teach us to be more strategic and think about the big picture. I probably am neither ESTJ or ENTJ, I am likely E*TJ.

This book by Pearman and Albritton takes the MBTI further and delves deeper into the model by considering alternative modes of behaviour and personal weaknesses. You may not believe in MBTI yourself, but you will come off feeling that the authors really drink their own kool-aid.

The first insight is that beyond our primary processes, we have auxiliary functions. My primary mode of behaviour is Extraversion-Thinking and this shows across both my engineer, a law student and trainer personas. So I take in information best when interacting with team-mates and crowds.

A person's auxiliary function balances the Extraversion with the Introversion axis. As such to make a decision, I often have to reflect internally upon the information I get from conducting classes. At this stage, it's get confusing because I can't tell whether my auxiliary function is IS or IN. An IS prefers to reflect upon hard facts and have a bias for the practical. An IN prefers to intellectualise and loves dealing with broad concepts and theories.

I am neither a sensing or intuitive person. I generally find myself dealing with back-testing data and trying very hard to reconcile them with theories about market outperformance. There is no escape from tying the hard facts to the broad concepts to determine the action an investor has to take. I think it is this full-stack approach to investing that makes it so hard for me to pin down my current MBTI profile. Sometimes the most practical way to take on huge amounts of data is to start with great first principles.

Of course, the hardest part of the MBTI is to know your weakness. In my case, my biggest problem is coded IF. Getting in touch with my internal feelings. Even the remediation steps are really hard to contemplate given my current work situation.

In situations when I deal with people I should focus more on their emotional state and the personal values they bring to the table. This is a horrendous idea to me given that, logically, people come with so many contradictions that dealing with it means arriving at sub-optimal results. Also, I think culturally, this can be viewed as a weakness.

The hobbies I should adopt is less vomit-inducing. I was advised to spend more time making art. In this case, I am grateful for my RPG background which is amateur theatre with lots of dice and mass murder. With my financial independence, I have attempted musical composition and improv classes. I think they all ended in unpleasant disasters.

This should not stop me from trying shit that I don't understand - I need to set an example to my kids.

Even with the lack of scientific rigour, readers should make it a point to know your MBTI. This will at least prevent you from being stuck doing work you hate. Imagine an INFP studying data science. That would be suicide-inducing.

Knowing your MBTI also helps in understanding a lot of business books that seem to be hell-bent on adopting MBTI over the better frameworks used by academics. I once had an economics professor who asked a group of zombie public servants whether they like more entrepreneurs DNA in their organization which was, predictably,  met with a resounding yes. Then he pulled the rug under us, saying that entrepreneurs tend to be ENTPs, one of the flakiest and least conscientious types who are likely to the worst fit for my organization.

That moment of one of the most pleasant ones I had when I was in government. Broccoli had more personality than some of my colleagues.

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