Web-based Type Technology: What is its role?

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Is a web-based type instrument enough? Are they accurate? Will web-based technology substitute for working with a professional coach?

There are an abundance of personality type ‘tests’ and descriptions on the internet. They are very easy to construct. It is not so easy to be sure they are accurate. Some of these have well-researched foundations like the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) ® instrument and others are just constructed by enthusiastic, but naive type without the depth of knowledge to know if what they are describing is accurate. And some fall in between these extremes. In my many years of experience, helping people find their best fit type takes more than an instrument. The purpose of my post here is to outline some criteria that you can use when you explore all of these type resources on the internet.

Instrument Accuracy: What is the best-fit accuracy rate (sometimes reported as error rate)? Most of those on the web don’t report accuracy data and if fact many don’t report any data at all. If they do, you have to dig for it. The MBTI® manual cites a range from 58% to 85% agreement with self-estimates of type. (page 197 in the Third Edition of the MBTI® Manual. 1998) In my over 30 years of experience that includes conducting MBTI® Certification programs and sessions with clients, I have found that this range of percent agreements is acceptable and to be expected. Accuracy varies according to the mind sets of the participants, how self-aware they are, if they are in a stage of development where they are developing the other side of the dichotomies, if they are referencing themselves in a work context as opposed to how they are overall, and more. No instrument is 100% accurate, no matter what is implied or assumed.

Description Accuracy. Psychological type models provide sixteen personality type patterns. Interaction Styles and Essential Motivators (aka temperament) provide four patterns each. With these four-category models it is very difficult to craft descriptions of a pattern that captures the essence of the pattern and yet appeals to the four types that have that pattern. There are as many varieties of the sixteen type patterns as there are people and recent research is showing development differences in how those type patterns express. It takes a great deal of experience with all types of all ages to be able to craft accurate descriptions and even when this is the case, there will still be some aspects of the descriptions that won’t fit. Check out the background and the expertise of the writers of the descriptions being used as well as how they verified the accuracy.

The Process: The challenge comes when an instrument is used alone in a test-and-tell way. An instrument is only one data point. How can it be accurate in all cases? It can’t. The following best practices apply to self-discovery processes with or without an instrument. They also apply to any technology-assisted self-discovery. If any of these are missing, there is a likelihood that type identification will be inaccurate and lead the client astray.

  • Conducting a set-up and framing session that sets an atmosphere of safety. It needs to help clients set aside any situational influences while tuning in to the core self, and be open to self-discovery instead of seeking a ‘test result.’
  • Providing accurate, well-constructed holistic, bias-free, narrative descriptions of all types for clients to explore as they learn new things about themselves. And as a side benefit, providing these help them understand others.
  • Providing opportunities to compare themselves to others who are like the type patterns they think fit them.
  • Encouraging an ongoing process of self-discovery and verification of fit of the descriptions.
  • Access to a coach to facilitate the clarification process.

For many, especially adults with rich life experiences, finding a best fit is an ongoing process not a one-time event. Many have to peel back layers of adaptation and development to find out which of the type patterns unconsciously drive them. We are often more aware of the developing self than we are of the core self. Therefore following this process is very important if the true value of using type is to be realized.

Is a web-based type instrument enough? Rarely, but it can be, if it includes elements of a self-discovery process that is interactive. In addition to the instrument questions, it need to encourage exploration of those all-important narrative descriptions and an ongoing process of self-verification. In the end, it is not just finding out one’s type that is valuable, it is the attitudinal shifts, behavior changes, and development that come from that experience.

Are they accurate? Maybe. But none of them will be 100% accurate so look for programs that give opportunities to check out well-written, accurate descriptions. Also find out if the programs provide a continual self-rating that encourages self-awareness while it honors individuality.

Will web-based technology substitute for working with a professional coach? There is no substitute for the assistance of a professional for identifying one’s best-fit type. Sometime, an individual can find a good fit without help. However, the best option is a combination of the two. While web technology can add value just like books can, it really can’t replace a coach. To get behavior change, there is nothing like a coach to encourage you, notice when you are stuck in blind spots, and help you move beyond the limits of your type. A coach can ensure that the frame of mind needed for the process to be helpful is established. It is especially helpful if the coach is more than just qualified or certified in an instrument, but is certified in a process and has a depth of knowledge beyond what is written in books.

Another use of technology I’m really excited about is how it can make the learning stick. It can help get rich type information to them and help them apply the information when they need it, with real problems with real people, but that is another topic for a blog post.

I am proud to be on a team that developed software that meets these criteria and goes beyond the self-discovery to ongoing applications to relationships, teamwork, and leadership. If you want to know more, please contact me at info(at)lindaberens.com. Whether you use our product or others, I hope you apply the criteria above to get better results. Type knowledge can do so much more than it does when these are not followed.