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What Personality Type is Best Suited to Problem Solving

By Anthony Clyne – TXM Consulting Director

Most of us, at some point in recent memory will have been subjected to a personality test. Most likely it will be the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI), which is the most widely used tool in this area. These tools are somewhat overused, but nevertheless can provide us with some useful insights in to our own personality and how we are likely to interact with other people and situations in our daily lives. So, is there a personality type best suited to solving problems and, more to the point, is there a personality type that is unsuited to solving problems??

MBTI evaluates personality in to four dichotomies or opposite pairs. These are:

Introversion – Extroversion

Sensing – Intuition

Thinking – Feeling

Judging – Perception

This provides a  total of 16 different personality types, depending on which end of each dichotomy the individual belongs. Expert assistance (from a clinical psychologist) is definitely needed to properly interpret the meaning of your personality type, however an example of how this might impact on the way problems are solved is that many Engineers are Introvered-Sensing-Thinking-Judging or (ISTJ). Broadly, this means that perhaps they are more comfortable with things and facts than people and emotions.

As lean consultants who constantly coach diverse teams in lean problem solving, we have found that everybody can solve problems effectively if they follow the process. Some people find it hard to follow the methodology. Awareness of your thinking preferences will help you be a better problem solver. For examples.

  • Our engineer, who is a High J’s (judging) may tend to jump to conclusions and are sometimes too unwilling  to Check and Adjust if they think they got the “right answer” the first time.
  • High F’s (feeling) look at the relationships and prefer a Senge type loop digram method, often bypassing the root cause.
  • High P’s (perceiving) tend to shortlist too many possible causes.
  • High I’s (introverts) will be task focused and go and try a fix while everybody is talking about the solution.

These factors an inherent biases are worth being aware of, however the bottom line is, follow the process and you’ll be fine. Having diverse personality types in your problem solving effort will give a quicker result. Using a robust system for problem solving such as TXM’s Solving Problems Every Day (SPED) will enable you to manage diverse personalities and still get to the root cause and a practical solution.

Click on this link to find a good explanation of MBTI (Which Myers Briggs Type Indicator) on Wikipedia
Another web page we have found provides some excellent commentary on personality types and problem solving. This simple page uses the Wizard of Oz metaphor used with great impact by Ian “Toto, We are not in Kansas Anymore.” http://www.personalitypathways.com/article/problemsolve.html.

This metaphor has been around for a while – I first it used at the 1992 TQMI 2nd Conference.