Decision Making with Myers-Briggs Part I

by Ron

This will begin a Myer-Briggs series on Decision Making. Over three blog posts we’ll look at the Perceiving Function (how people take in information), the Judging Function (how people make sense of what they perceive) and finally the Decision-Making Process.

Background

Carl Jung was the famous psychiatrist who broke with Sigmund Freud. While Freud seemed to study what was wrong with us as human beings, Jung thought it better to study what was right and natural about us humans and what we could learn about ourselves with the proper framework. His work on Psychological Types led Myers and Briggs to put together their framework for understanding how we work.

Of the four functions pairs (making up the 16 possible archetypes) Jung and Myers-Briggs believed that the middle two were used in our decision-making process. It’s important to understand how these two functions work and in which order to under our and others decision-making process.

The simple concept is that we spend our days cycling between perceiving (observing what’s going on around us) and making judgments (decisions) based on that observation. A simple example is that when we’re leaving the house in the morning we look out the window and notice (perceive) that it’s raining. We then judge the situation to require (decide) to take an umbrella.

Perceiving

In this post, we’ll look at the Perceiving function followed by a Judging blog and finally a Decision Process blog.

How do we perceive the world around us? For many years, Myers-Briggs called this your Attending function, what do you pay attention to? The two descriptors associated with our Perceiving function are Sensing and iNtuition. S vs N. That’s not a type in the word intuition. Myers-Briggs had already used the capital I to indicate Introversion (other blogs) so they used the capital N to signify intuition.

Sensing

The sensing function is focused on things we can notice with our five senses. Because of this, “Sensors” are focused on facts, details, the present and the practical. Things that we can see and know now.

iNtuition

Those who are intuition based seem to think and notice things like concepts, patterns, future, imaginative. Things that we can deduct or speculate about the future.

Balance

Both perceiving functions are valid, useful and necessary. I’m always emphasizing balance when I conduct Myers-Briggs sessions. Balance, balance, balance. It’s best when we can depend on and blend both functions. We’ll get into trouble relying too much on one or the other. Therefore I like to use Myers-Briggs with teams. It’ easier for a team to balance functions when we have a mixture of both types on the team.

I first experienced this function even before I knew of the Myers-Briggs framework. I have a preference for iNtuition and years ago I was working for a boss who had a clear preference for Sensing. He asked me a question that had great consequences for our business and I quickly answered him from my conceptual view of the world. He said to me, “You shouldn’t make important decisions like that so flippantly!” I didn’t feel it was flippant but he insisted that I spend time creating a business plan to support my flippant answer. Three weeks later I was back with my completed spreadsheet business plan and the answer was still the same. At that point I was curious. Didn’t he know the answer three weeks ago? Didn’t he at least have a hunch? He said, Yes, he figured the answer was likely to go that way but he was not willing to make the decision until he could see the numbers. This was an important revelation to me (later confirmed by Myers-Briggs). Sensing types are no less intuitive than iNtuitive types. He figured the answer would likely go that way. But, they won’t make decisions without the details and facts. iNtuitive types pay no less attention to the details (I’m very good at spreadsheet development and analysis) but they’re willing to make decisions based on that intuition without confirming the details.

The best answer is a balanced one. Weigh and compare the sensing attention to detail with the intuitive attention to the concept. It often takes a partnership or team to do this well.

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