The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

Think Do Think

– August 25th, 2007 –

When I worked at the BBC, I participated in a workshop where the entire department went through a Myers-Briggs Personality questionnaire. I think the aim of the workshop was for all of us to understand, to some degree, the personality traits of our colleagues.

The Myers-Briggs test was originally devised in the Second World War by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. The form of the test I participated in was a very long questionnaire which, when analysed, highlighted your personal preferences. That’s a very important aspect of the results—they describe what you prefer to do, not what you do all the time.

I was sceptical at first, but after completing the test, and the following workshops, i’ve had some fantastic insights into my own preferences—particularly when carrying out my job day to day.

I, N, T, P

The four pairs of preferences or dichotomies in the Myers-Briggs test:

  • Introversion - Extraversion
  • Sensing - iNtuition
  • Thinking - Feeling
  • Judging - Perceiving

Combinations of these preferences build to give you a set of traits, eg. ISTJ: Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging or ENFP: Extraverted, iNtuition, Feeling, Perceiving.

I turned out to be INTP. Introverted, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving. But what does that mean? Well, there’s a whole load of information which breaks this type down. A good source is Type Logic.

At this stage of the workshop, in all honestly, I felt I was having my palm read—I really didn’t buy it. It was only discussing it in detail with the Wife (who has a degree in Psychology), that I began to understand my new pigeon-hole.

Think Do Think

Some of the biggest conflicts, especially in the workplace, are when two opposing personalities (whose preferences are opposites) fail to understand the way the other prefers to work. This, for me, was the value of doing this test openly in the workplace. I knew what my preferences to working were, but I wasn’t aware of other peoples and therefore couldn’t put myself in their shoes.

It turns out, I prefer to work in a Think Do Think way. For example, I get a brief and I go away and Think about it. I’ll then Do something on it, then go away and Think some more. My preference is to think about it first. Other people have an opposing preference though—Do Think Do. These are the people who I find it very difficult to work with, simply because they work in a completely opposite way to me. You know the type (maybe you’re one). You solve problems as you talk about them. You Brain-Dump. You thrive on brainstorming. You instantly get a plan together and know where you’re going. You then validate that direction by thinking about it for a while. And so it goes on.

Get the brief in early

At Mark Boulton Design, as I have done throughout my career, I’ve made a point of trying to get the brief in early. As soon as possible actually. Quite often the client will want me to act upon that brief right away. I prefer not to. I’ll sit on it and think about it for a while.

When it comes to actually doing the work—from brainstorming or discovery, to designing the UI or layout—I’m already in a more informed position. I will have questions, and answers. I will, hopefully, have a good grasp of the problem. Quite often though, this has all happened on a subconscious level. I will have been stewing it over during those quiet moments in the day.

This working practice works very well for me. However, quite often, it goes against working practice of clients and colleagues who want results right away.

Try it for yourself

TypeLogic have a few links off to online tests. If you’re currently having conflict with some colleagues, or a particularly difficult client, then have a go at this test. It may not tell you about them, but it may well give you enough insight into your own preferences which could help the situation.

If you do, or have done the test before, I’d be interested in knowing what you thought of it.

Filed in: business, personal.

Further reading