Braverman's Blog
Terry Braverman and Company

Myers-Briggs: Meaningless?

Quote for the Week: “The one size fits all approach of standardized testing is convenient but lazy." - James Dyson


The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is probably the most widely used personality test in the world. An estimated 2million people take it annually, at the behest of corporate HR departments, colleges, and even government agencies. The company that makes and markets the test makes somewhere around $20 million each year.


The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.
"There's just no evidence behind it," says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania. "The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you'll be in a situation, how you'll perform at your job, or how happy you'll be in your marriage."

The test claims that, based on 93 questions, it can group all the people of the world into 16 different discrete "types" — and in doing so, serve as "a powerful framework for building better relationships, driving positive change, harnessing innovation, and achieving excellence." Most of the faithful think of it primarily as a tool for telling you your proper career choice.

But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality "types" were just rough tendencies he'd observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analysis have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people's success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.

Yet you've probably heard people telling you that they're an ENFJ (extraverted intuitive feeling judging), an INTP (introverted intuitive thinking perceiving), or another one of the 16 types drawn from his work, and you may have even been given this test in a professional setting. Here's an explanation of why these labels are so meaningless — and why no organization in the 21st century should rely on the test for anything.

In 1921, Jung published the book Psychological Types. In it, he put forth a few different interesting, unsupported theories on how the human brain operates.

Among other things, he explained that humans fall roughly into two main types: perceivers and judgers. The former group could be further split into people who prefer  sensing and others who prefer intuiting, while the latter could be split into thinkers and feelers, making for a total of four types of people. All four types, additionally, could be divided based on attitudes, into introverts and extraverts (Jung's spelling). These categories, though, were approximate: "Every individual is an exception to the rule," Jung wrote.

Even these rough categories, though, didn't come out of controlled experiments or data. "This was before psychology was an empirical science," says Grant, the Penn psychologist. "Jung literally made these up based on his own experiences." But Jung's influence on the early field was enormous, and this idea of "types" in particular caught on.

Jung's principles were later adapted into a test by Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, a pair of Americans who had no formal training in psychology. To learn the techniques of test-making and statistical analysis, Briggs worked with Edward Hay, an HR manager for a Philadelphia bank.

They began testing their "Type Indicator" in 1942. It copied Jung's types, but slightly altered the terminology, and modified it so that a person was assigned one possibility or the other in all four categories, based on their answers to a series of two-choice questions.

Raise two (the number of possibilities in each category) to the fourth power (the number of categories) and you get 16: the different types of people there apparently are in the world. Myers and Briggs gave titles to each of these types, like the Executive, the Caregiver, the Scientist, and the Idealist.

The test has grown enormously in popularity over the years — especially since it was taken over by the company CPP in 1975 — but has changed little. It still assigns you a four-letter type to represent which result you got in each of the four categories:

With most traits, humans fall on different points along a spectrum. If you ask people whether they prefer to think or feel, or whether they prefer to judge or perceive, the majority will tell you a little of both. Jung himself admitted as much, noting that the binaries were useful ways of thinking about people, but writing that "there is no such thing as a pure extravert or a pure introvert. Such a man would be in the lunatic asylum."

But the test is built entirely around the basis that people are all one or the other. It arrives at the conclusion by giving people questions such as, "You tend to sympathize with other people" and offering them only two blunt answers: "yes" or "no."

If private companies want to throw their money away on the Myers-Briggs, that's their prerogative. But about 200 Federal agencies reportedly waste money on the test too, including the State Department and the CIA. The military in particular relies heavily on the Myers-Briggs, and the EPA has given it to about a quarter of its 17,000 employees.

It's 2014. Thousands of professional psychologists have evaluated the century-old Myers-Briggs, found it to be inaccurate and arbitrary, and devised better systems for evaluating personality. Let's stop using this outdated measure — which has about as much scientific validity as your astrological sign — and move on to something else.

(Article written by Joseph Stromberg,, July 15, 2014)











Building Employee Confidence

Quote for the Week: “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” – Dale Carnegie



In this week's Linked-In HR Group Forum, the question of how best to build employee confidence was presented to group members. Some of the best feedback here:
"How does a child get enough confidence to walk? You have to crawl before you walk and walk before you run.

I believe the biggest problem companies run into is not realizing their employees are human. The have feelings and fears they need to over come. Let them explore in areas that interest them. If they are allowed to "walk" before they "run", falling occasionally along the way, they will find their confidence and do amazing things." Tom S.

"In my opinion, the most important factor in building up the confidence of employees is consistent and constructive feedback. If an employee knows what tasks are being performed well and opportunities for improvement, most will flourish and continue to grow. Similarly, employees that are advised of areas of concern, coupled with meaningful coaching and training, will naturally gain confidence as they learn and adapt.

Consistency is the key. Employees that report to me know that I give consistent feedback with the goals being (a) recognition; (b) encouragement; (c) performance improvement; and (d) continuing training. Another important factor is empowerment. Employees that are empowered to do their jobs consistent with their training, education and experience will more likely than not exude confidence. On the other hand, employees that are second-guessed, hamstrung or -- even worse -- berated for errors will have their confidence sink.

Finally, be accessible to provide answers and training. Employees that know they can ask questions without fear of negative feedback or energy are more likely to do so. When you give answers provide the "why" and not just the "how." If the context is right, provide the critical thinking that you engaged in to provide the answer. Perhaps, the employee will model that same thinking in working future problems." Paul A.

 "I have tried to ensure employees understand they can make decisions. If am employee can make a local decision and they will receive the support of management, that goes a long way to building confidence. If the decision was the wrong decision, that's okay, but you need to learn from it.

Also, everyone likes praise. You may feel that the praise is small to you, but to the employee it may mean everything. But don't praise everything as it will loose it's effectiveness. Small victories win the battle." John A

Smartphone Affection or Addiction?


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “At one time, I hated the iPhone – but that was only before I used one for the first time.” – Chris Pirillo




Last night I caught a tech report on the evening news about Smartphone use. A survey taken at USC (University of Southern California) found that female students are engrossed in their Smartphones a whopping average of 10 hours per day; male students, 8 hours per day. When asked if they considered themselves addicted to their phones, 80% agreed, admitting it emphatically like members of an Alcoholics Anonymous support group.


As a writer and one who fervently observes social behavior in public settings, I can’t help but notice what happens when groups of young people congregate in a coffee shop, a nightclub, even on a park bench. It’s as if they agree to congregate for the purpose of keeping company while each is self-absorbed with their phones. And it’s not like an “excuse me, I need a moment to check for messages,” it often lasts for a lengthy duration that consumes the lion’s share of time spent with their friends sitting across from them. This is not just a random occurrence.


Smartphone use can get very heavy with other demographic groups. In a study of 1,600 managers and professionals, Leslie Perlow, PhD, the Matsushita professor of leadership at the Harvard Business School, found that:


  • 79% of smartphones users grab their phones within 15 minutes of waking up;
  • 56% check their phone within an hour of going to sleep
  • 48% check over the weekend, including on Friday and Saturday nights
  • 51% check continuously during vacation
  • 44% said they would experience "a great deal of anxiety" if they lost their phone and couldn't replace it for a week.


As telling as those numbers are, they seem outdated. WebMD writer Susan Davis confesses, “I check my smartphone compulsively. And the more I use it, the more often the urge to look at it hits me - in the Orthodontist's office, walking my kids to school, in meetings, even while making breakfast. Sometimes it is in my hand before I even know what I'm searching for. Sometimes I tap the screen absent mindedly, looking at my email, a local blogger, my calendar, and Twitter.”


The all-consuming preoccupation begs the question - why? When I notice people having the need to text while they're driving a car or riding a bicycle, they obviously know that they're putting their well-being and that of others in peril. We really have to explore what is so compelling about this medium to engage in life-endangering conduct.


"A true addiction entails a growing tolerance to a substance so you need more to get ‘high,’ uncomfortable symptoms during withdrawal, and a harmful impact on your life,” says David Greenfield, PhD, a psychologist and author of Virtual Addiction: Help for Netheads, Cyber Freaks, and Those Who Love Them. “Computer technologies can be addictive, he says, because they're ‘psychoactive.’ That is, they alter mood and often trigger enjoyable feelings.”


These technologies have spawned a growing niche along with new jargon in the clinical setting. “Email, in particular, gives us satisfaction due to what psychologists call ‘variable ratio reinforcement.’ That is, we never know when we'll get a satisfying email, so we keep checking, over and over again. It's like slot machines…We're seeking that pleasurable hit." Smartphones, of course, motivate us to seek additional social “placebos” (texts, selfies, videos, Twitter feeds, and news updates, in addition to email) anytime and anywhere.


Is such behavior healthy? Does spending a big chunk of time immersed in a virtual environment significantly compromise real time connection to the physical world, rendering it as peripheral? Does a technology designed to simplify our lives and enhance our people connections lead to an erosion of in-person social interactions and skills?


Writer Sarah Coppler still wrestles with the dilemma: “About six months (ago) I switched from a smartphone to a basic cell phone service plan. I sold my Android through EBay and thought I would never look back. I was a smartphone addict! All day, from the time I woke and to the time I went asleep, my smartphone was within an arm’s reach. Each time it dinged I felt compelled to check the new message and then lingered to view more by clicking on the various apps. I found myself not seeing anything around me but what was on my tiny handheld screen. Lately, I have been getting a hankering for a smartphone, thinking that having easy access on Wi-Fi spots throughout the city would be nice. But, I’m concerned if I get one. Will it take me back down that slippery slope and the world will become again the size of my palm?”







Healthcare Going Mobile?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "We need to bring the exam room to where the patients are." - Dr. Jay Sanders, telemedicine pioneer


Mobile technology is on the cusp of creating unprecedented change in the U.S. healthcare industry. Despite its potential for improving communications and workflow, the pace of mHealth (as the new field is known) has been slothful compared with other industries. However, the scenario is slowly changing, pitting healthcare's complex and costly rigors against the technology's increasingly widespread acceptance and use.

Information privacy and security concerns loom large as impediments. Despite these hurdles, will mobile technology —from texting to imagery sharing in telemedicine consultations and mobile access to electronic health records—keep progressing? Will it reduce costs and improve clinical results by instantly lending health-enhancing information at defining moments? Will patients routinely discharge from the hospital with apps linking them to their providers? Will mobile healthcare ultimately live up to its promise?

The answer lies in how motivated organizations are to invest in technology and training. Much depends on whether there is adequate return on investment (ROI), which includes increased consumer satisfaction. Healthcare providers are notoriously slow to measure technology ROI. For every major academic medical center with massive resources and sophisticated systems, there are thousands of small hospitals and clinics continuing to rely on costly, error-prone manual paperwork, outdated administrative procedures and basic computer hardware and software capabilities. But with competition intensifying, administrators must satisfy patient and clinician expectations, and mobile technology is already a fundamental part of most Americans' lifestyles.  Tech industry giants like Google, Samsung, and Apple have all announced ambitious health care integration plans with mobile devices this year.

The aim of making patient information accessible on mobile devices is to boost the efficiency and quality of care delivery with more timely, potentially life-saving treatment interventions. This is a tall task given a convoluted environment regulated by stringent privacy and security compliance guidelines. Healthcare institutions continue to grapple with how best to adopt mobile technology and transform care in an industry that has been especially resistant to change.

Taking the current temperature on this issue are researchers from Healthcare Dive and Spok, who surveyed almost 250 senior healthcare service providers about mobility in their healthcare systems. Most were administrators, but physicians, nurses and clinical staff represented nearly two in 10 respondents to the survey; nearly one in 10 respondents were information technology (IT) professionals. Most of the respondents' organizations were fairly large, ranging from 100 to 500-plus beds.

Healthcare organizations' most common use of mobility (59%) is for mobile access to electronic health records (EHRs). This is followed closely by paging (55%), secure texting (42%), and telemedicine consultations with other providers (35%). By far, healthcare organizations' most common uses of mobile technology to communicate with patients are email (60%) and the online patient portal (55%). Next comes text messaging (32%), with mobile apps and telemedicine consultations at 23%. Its use for home monitoring is below 20%.

As for staff clinicians, nearly two-thirds of healthcare organizations issue mobile phones to them, and most (53%) also issue laptops. About four in 10 organizations issue pagers to clinicians, and 35% issue tablets. Only 13% of organizations don't provide some type of mobile device to clinicians at this point in time.

Nearly three-quarters of healthcare organizations expect to expand the use of mobile technology in the next year, and just shy of 50% are increasing their budgets for it. However, perhaps because of uncertainty over Obamacare's upcoming second year of health insurance exchanges, nearly one-third of organizations don't know whether their budgets for mobile technology will increase in the next year.

Hospitals are starting to outgrow their isolated brick and mortar facilities predicated on heavy inpatient volume to becoming focused more on outpatient services and remote health management intervention. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), by covering previously uninsured Americans and expanding Medicaid, was intended to provide better access to primary care services and reduce unnecessary emergency room use. But many hospitals have documented more ER crowding since the ACA's exchanges initiated coverage in 2014. As a result, hospitals are competing to become (or remain) part of exchange plans' increasingly narrow networks, participating in new care delivery models such as accountable care organizations and trying to comply with ever-changing reform regulations. All this uncertainty could put implementation of mobile health on hold.

For complete survey results: Survey report 2014




Should Everyone Get Paid Sick Leave?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I like to call in sick to work at places where I’ve never held a job. Then when the manager tells me I don’t work there, I tell them I’d like to. But not today, as I’m sick.” ― Jarrod Kintz



Most of the world thinks it’s a healthy idea. Paid sick leave is provided in almost 150 countries, and 66% of those sanction one month or more. They include many of the wealthier nations, e.g., Switzerland, Sweden and Singapore.


The specifics vary, but the general rule is if a doctor certifies that someone is ill, they do not have to work to receive their pay. Of course, the system is subject to abuse when some workers take the day off on the pretext of being sick. But those who are truly sick are seldom productive and are much more vulnerable to workplace accidents. More importantly, they could easily compromise the health of their co-workers and customers, causing greater harm. Paid sick leave for people who are genuinely sick is widely regarded as a worthy one. The problems start when workers come to see it as an entitlement that they can add to their holiday allowance – whether or not they are really sick.


I prefer the broader concept of PTO (Paid Time Off). It would be better to give each employee a number of paid personal days that can be used for sick leave (certified by a physician or not), study leave, or other absences for personal and family reasons - for whatever they need. And employees should not be tempted to lie about whether they are sick or not.


What about incentivizing a program, rewarding people for having no sick days to reduce the probability of people taking days off sick when they are not sick? It can be a paid bonus at Christmas - a good motivator. Add paid personal days or bonuses for employees who enroll in wellness programs for fitness, weight reduction, stop smoking plans, etc. A proactive approach becomes a shared responsibility of both employee and employer.


What are your thoughts on the issue? Should people have to verify they are sick to get paid? Should people be able to take paid sick leave when a member of their family is ill? Should there be a maximum period? Should pay be proportional, or the full amount? Should this matter be the responsibility of employees, employers, or government?






15 Tips to Lighten Up at Work

Receive 15 Tips to Lighten Up at Work from
Terry's best-selling book...

AND get a FREE subscription to The Weekly Manager.

The Replenisher