October 2, 2017
By Kathryn Cave
Over the last few years we’ve done quite a bit of research [PDF] into the personality types of IT professionals. Inevitably, a lot of this was grounded in the Myers-Briggs personality test (MBTI), as this is such a staple of HR training schedules. Yet one thing always causes confusion – introverts and extroverts may be polarised opposites – but what about ambiverts? In the short Q&A below Rich Thompson, divisional director of research at CPP Inc. (which publishes the MBTI), explains why it doesn’t explicitly endorse ambiversion, and what personality traits it has identified amongst CIOs and other members of the IT department.
Why does CPP not explicitly endorse ambiversion? Ambiversion doesn’t fit the theoretical model that the MBTI is based on, which says that we prefer one side of the dichotomy or the other. However, the theory also holds that while people may have a preference – such as for extroversion or introversion – we can and often do learn how to operate with both preferences. Additionally, it should be pointed out that no one is an “introvert or extrovert” – we all simply have a natural affinity for one or the other. Those preferences may influence us, but they don’t control our behaviour.
Is it totally binary? How would CPP characterise people that do not fall heavily on the side of either introversion or extroversion? The MBTI measurements are binary, but much of the variation that we see depends on how well people have learned to operate outside of their natural preferences. It is extremely uncommon in life for people to have the luxury of solely operating within their natural preferences, and part of a happy, successful life involves developing the ability to “flex” our preferences. When we think of introversion/extroversion, we should think of these terms as verbs, rather than nouns. That’s why we always refer to people as “preferring introversion or extroversion” rather than being “an introvert” or “an extrovert”. Someone preferring introversion may learn to function quite well in social settings and can easily network with the best of them, and may in fact get a lot of satisfaction out of it, it just may not be their “shoes off” preferred mode.