Using the MBTI to Build Better Multiplatform Publishing Teams

Understanding Myers-Briggs personality types helps improve publishing team performance

publishing teams controlled-circulation

Publishing teams are made up of an assortment of different personality types, and people who are in jobs where they’re a good fit tend to be happy. They are also more productive.

Making business more productive is a centuries-old goal. For much of the 20th century, the emphasis has been placed on improving business processes with management providing virtually all of the critical thinking skills.

In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor wrote in Principles of Scientific Management that workers are treated as parts of a process, not unlike the parts of a machine. In his book, he explained how workers were told exactly what to do, how to do it, and rewarded for success.

Some attention was given to improving the task-oriented skills of the individual worker but little thought has been given, until recently, to teaching individuals how to work together as a team and to help them understand how differences in individual temperament play a key role in the productivity of publishing teams.  You might not know this, but the grand turnaround of Ford Motor Company in the early 1980s is attributed in large part to the huge success of Team Taurus, a high performance work team that cut across the conventional organizational structure at Ford.

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How different personality types can affect a larger multiplatform publishing teams

People are not the same. They gather, perceive, and judge data differently. The writings of Swedish psychiatrist Carl Jung have been used to categorize these seemingly random differences into 16 psychological types that can help us understand ourselves and those around us. These types can play a key role in modern team building.

Jung first described two fundamentally different orientations to the world. “Extroverted” people, who prefer to exist outside of themselves and who draw their energy from the world around them, and “introverted” people, who prefer to exist inside themselves and draw energy from focusing within. He then added two additional dimensions: the process of “perception” or how we become aware of new information and “judgment” or how we organize and prioritize our thoughts and actions.

Jung separated the process of perception into two types of information processing preferences: Sensing and iNtuition.

  • Sensing is the process by which we gather factual data.
  • iNtuition is gathering data by becoming aware of abstract patterns and meanings.

Both processes are important to every human being, but each of us tends to emphasize one method of gathering data over the other.  Jung also noted two ways in which people judge information: Thinking and Feeling.

  • Thinking judgment is based on objective facts.
  • Feeling judgments are based on personal and universal values.

Jung’s writings further imply that in addition to each person’s preference for their dominant mental process, or what their “type” combination is, (extroverted Sensing, introverted Sensing, extroverted iNtuition, introverted iNtuition, extroverted Thinking, introverted Thinking, extroverted Feeling, introverted Feeling), they would also have a preference for a secondary process. This secondary process would come into play in different challenging situations. Put simply, an Extroverted Sensing type could also, for example, prefer either introverted Thinking or introverted Feeling as their secondary mental process.

Jung’s observations were thus the foundations for 16 personality types that can now be accurately measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) developed by Isabel Myers (and her mother Katharine Briggs). Myers used Jung’s theory of opposites (Sensing or iNtuiting, Thinking or Feeling) and a battery of test questions that ask subjects how they prefer to interact with the external world to discover each individual’s MBTI Type.

Applying MBTI to business

The process has been so successful in predicting the characteristics associated with the 16 Types that it is now used around the world to help individuals understand how they see the world and how their view differs from other people in their lives. Most recently, the MBTI has moved into the workplace as a valuable tool for helping co-workers understand how other members of their publishing team view the world differently. In fact, around 80% of Fortune 1000 companies now use the MBTI instrument at some level in the organization.

Many systems have been introduced in recent years to provide organizations with a process for building high performance publishing teams. Susan Nash’s SCORE system is one popular paradigm for understanding and improving work teams.  An examination of her five-factor model makes it clear that effective communication between team members is critical for team success.

  1. S – Strategy: Shared Purpose; Clearly articulated values and ground rules; Understanding the risks and opportunities facing the team; Clear categorization of the overall responsibilities of the team.
  2. C – Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Clear definitions; Responsibility shared by all members; Specific measurement of individual results.
  3. O – Open Communication: Respect for individual differences; Open and nonjudgmental communication environment among team members.
  4. R – Rapid Response: to the team’s  and the customer’s problems and opportunities; Effective response to and management of changes in internal and external environment.
  5. E – Effective Leadership: Team leader who is able to both help the team achieve their objectives and build the team; Team leader who can draw out and make available the skills of all team members, and develop the potential of every team member.

Like many others, Nash’s research concludes that team building must begin with creating a profile of each team member using the MBTI instrument and them combining the data from those individual profiles to form a team profile.  The process creates an opportunity for team members to know themselves better, know their teammates better and finally to understand how to combine their strengths to create a powerful, effective team.

While there aren’t good or bad MBTI types, some tend to correlate more to success in certain positions. When the MBTI types aren’t as natural a fit, it’s particularly important to be aware of that and how individuals and the organization can act to compensate.

Your challenge: Find out your type!

Over the course of the next week, I’d like you to take the MBTI assessment. There are many different ways to take it and here is a shorter free version you can take right now:

If you decide to use this assessment when hiring, you’ll want the MBTI Step II Form-Q version, it’s the full 144-questions.

Next, we’ll dive into hiring specific types and discuss how to communicate best with those types in your workplace. Then,  I’ll break down the ideal types for building a strong executive multiplatform publishing team and how those roles relate to revenue.

But first, find out what your type is.

What is your type? Do you agree, or disagree?

    chuck m.

    Good piece. As a student of Jung as well as a media guy I’m surprised this conversation has not been more widespread in publishing.


    Chuck McCullagh


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