In this ongoing comparing assessments blog series, Anne Griswold, our Whole Brain ® Thinking Catalyst, is taking a look at the similarities and differences of many employee assessment instruments and how you might use them—individually and together—to achieve your business and talent development needs. For this post, Anne discusses the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and how it compares with Whole Brain® Thinking and the HBDI®.
As we take a look at another assessment, let’s start once again with the premise. The premise of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is psychological assessment with a focus on personality, and it measures personality preference on four scales: Extraversion – Introversion (E – I), Sensing – Intuition (S – N), Thinking – Feeling (T – F), and Judgment – Perception (J – P). These personality preferences are then reported through the MBTI tool and result in 16 different personality types.
The MBTI assessment is used as a part of work with individuals and teams to build self-awareness and help people understand differences. It is often used in leadership development to help leaders understand themselves, their behavioral motivations and the impact their differences have on others. It’s also used in areas like career planning, conflict management and decision making.
Similarities and Differences Between the MBTI and the HBDI
While their premises are different (the HBDI is based on thinking preference), the HBDI and MBTI are complementary. Since thinking influences behavior, there are connections between the two assessments, and you can see many correlations between the MBTI scales and the HBDI’s thinking preferences. The Sensing/Intuition scale, for example, correlates with the B (green) quadrant and D (yellow) quadrants of the HBDI. In other words, each scale reflects a thinking preference that can be seen in the behaviors: The practical, concrete and organized behaviors of the Sensing scale reflect B-quadrant thinking, and the imaginative, big picture and creative behaviors of the Intuitive scale reflect D-quadrant thinking. Likewise, the Thinking/Feeling scale correlates with the A (blue) and C (red) quadrants of the HBDI. People with high A-quadrant preferences are often logical, critical and analytical, behaviors seen in the Thinking scale, while those with strong C-quadrant preferences often display behaviors that are expressive, interpersonal and empathetic, such as those in the Feeling scale.
Additionally, like the HBDI, the MBTI measures degrees of preference, and your thinking and behavioral preferences can shift over time.
Unlike the HBDI and Whole Brain® Thinking, though, the MBTI doesn’t have a methodology behind it to create a “common language” and support its ongoing application. This makes it more challenging for people to remember and apply it in daily practice. With its Whole Brain® Thinking methodology and many practical tools, the HBDI can easily be used as a diagnostic at every level of scale in an organization, which is important when you’re trying to change culture, improve behavior and develop capacity. You want something that’s “sticky” and repeatable and that can be applied in many different ways. While the MBTI can provide understanding and awareness around behavioral differences, because it’s only an assessment, it won’t help you with things like process mapping, innovation, strategy or change management.
In addition, for the practitioner who’s facilitating, teaching and creating understanding, the MBTI is more complicated, both to master and deliver. It’s challenging for the learner to understand and retain as well. People typically gain insight and see value in the experience, but because of the complexity of the model, the translation of that value into application is difficult. Even though there are some excellent booklets to help facilitate application, it’s a fairly high burden on the practitioner as well as the learner.
Another important point of difference between the two assessments is in how the premises are perceived. Because it’s a psychological assessment, the MBTI can get pushback from some learners who feel judged or vulnerable due to the focus on their personality and behavior. The cognitive preferences measured by the HBDI don’t usually elicit that kind of reaction.
While the two employee assessments measure different things, many companies choose to use both because thinking and behavior are so connected.
In my work, I’ve found the two assessments to be a good complement to individual coaching efforts. For example, if I’m coaching a leader over a period of time, I might have them take both the HBDI and the MBTI assessments. With the insights from both, they can identify the relationship between how they think, how they behave and how their thinking influences their behavior. This can give them a clearer understanding of the specific practices to add for the greatest impact.
The beauty of these assessments is one informs the other, and people can easily see the similarities in how they think and how they behave. So, if you’ve already rolled out the MBTI, you can introduce the HBDI to explore what’s behind those behaviors—the person’s thinking preferences. Likewise, if you’re already using the HBDI and want to emphasize the behavioral/psychological aspects, you can add the MBTI. They work well together when that relationship between thinking and behavior is clearly explained.