Diversity in Personality: Learning, Inclusion and Pseudo-Science

by Augusto Cuginotti

It has been more than a decade that I host the same workshop on personality dynamics. Together with my work with Diversity & Inclusion, working with a group exploring how different we can be in the way we process the world around us has always been full of insights for me and others.

Even if you have never talked about your and other’s personalities, you have probably come across personality tests like MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) and some others. Dubbed “astrology for businessmen” and used in most Fortune 500 companies, it has always been polemic and, some would say, dangerous.

That dangerous part was always present in the conversations I’ve had with the person who introduced and taught me this. People – including me – would leave the workshop fascinated to understand themselves, their relatives and friends in a way that looked like a manual of human behaviour.

 I’ve learned that we know a lot of the world by contrast and that discrimination, as in “the ability or power to see or make fine distinctions; discernment”, is critical for learning.

But how can one discriminate this way and not make “unjustified distinctions between human beings” in things that do not matter beyond individual and group learning?

Some will say that we should not even talk about it; after all, that is nothing more than pseudo-science that we should never use.

Well, I disagree, in part.

Agree on being pseudo-science, and you can see some good points here. Not only for MBTI but for personality tests in general. Their assumption does not go far (scientifically speaking) from your astrological chart: we are born with innate ways of being and behaving.

But disagree about we talking and using it. We should use it for tests and charts, but definitely for the conversations and reflections that come out of it.

If taken lightly and not like a manual, your astrological sign and MBTI letter soup can kick off conversations that are not present in our daily lives: a self-reflection on how we operate and the possible differences from how others could.

So for me, we should learn to discriminate its use, both as individuals and society. That way, we embrace the complexity of it rather than making it taboo.

One of the outputs of talking about diversity of personality is to debunk the “golden rule”, which says that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated. Well, still valid for some things – respect others because you want to be respected.

But not valid for other things – I’m perfectly comfortable in brainstorming sessions with everybody talking over everybody else (you’ve been through this mess, I’m sure). Guess what? Some people would rather sit quietly to ponder for 30 minutes before taking turns to explore a topic. Unfortunately, brainstorms are on all the time, and the others must find a way to adapt.

Not very different from the structural disadvantages that happen when we talk about gender, race and sexual orientation. Some are “normal”, and the world is made for them. The others should constantly adapt.

During the workshop, it is always a highlight when people see the preferred differences in processing information, receiving tasks, and engaging in conversation. Some feel society has asked them to adapt for too long and the beauty and contribution for doing it differently.

The choice of engaging in personality dynamics is not about science. It is about creating spaces for conversation. It is not about the individual either because our choices are not inclusive, impacting our social systems and organisations.

At the end of the workshop this year, someone came to me and asked about my personality dynamic. I prefer not to answer you that, I said, it does not make any difference.

Read More

  • What personality are you? How the Myers-Briggs test took over the world


  • HBO is streaming a “documentary” about personality tests and MBTI. Although a critical topic for discussion as people have been using it for labelling for ages, including when companies hire potential candidates, it goes astray as a sad intent of emotional highjack with things that have nothing to do with the topic itself.