Wrong but useful

I had the most wonderful awakening yesterday and I spent many hours after mulling over it. If you know me or have hung around this site for a while, you might be aware of my intense love hate relationship with psychometric tests. I take them all and hate them all. Well, hate is a strong word but I struggle to place an iota of trust in them. Especially MBTI. I automatically cringe every time someone shares their MBTI profile in an attempt to help me understand them better. If you had to quote, maybe share your DISC profile? Of course, it isn’t as easy and universal as sharing four letters but might be a tad bit more reliable. I could go on but you get the gist.

Yesterday, in a conversation with someone I consider really smart, I was taken back when he quoted his MBTI profile to explain why he caught on to a certain set of words. In my attempt to not let the cringe show, my face contorted into a strange expression leading him to ask what was on my mind. So I being me, instead of sprouting a politically correct response, shared my opinionated view on MBTI.  What he said after stuck in my head, made me change my view and inspired this post. Would I now share by MBTI profile by means of introduction? Of course not. I will continue to keep it out of as many conversations as possible but I deviate. Let’s get back to the conversation.  

He said, “Almost all models are wrong but helpful.” Now here is my interpretation and there’s a chance it may not directly overlap with his. The more I thought about it, I realized that people would not share their profile unless they believed that it in some way reflected their operating style. Now I trust people to be able to spot massive deviations from how they believe they operate and if they did, they wouldn’t share their psychometric test results. I also believe that while there may exist a gap in how people believe they operate and how they actually operate, it isn’t large enough to disrepute the result. For e.g. If someone says they are an extrovert, it is likely they are one. If they saw an ‘I’ in MBTI, they would likely mistrust it and not share it as an aid to help others understand them better. In that way, it is useful even though it might be wrong.

Following this thread of thought, I bounced around many models that exist in the world today (not essentially HR). The statement felt vastly true for all models I mistrust. Models are usually build with the intent of being helpful. Yes, reliability, accuracy and other metrics are also intended but if they are useful in a certain context, why not use them?

Hence, if in the future you notice that I no longer cringe at psychometric tests, you know why. Will I stop destroying them one by one on this site? No. That’s giving up on a lot of fun. I will continue to talk about all that is wrong with them but they will now come along with an added view point on what is right with them too. Talk about change.

Oh! And if you were curious, I’m ENTJ and it hasn’t changed in the four times I have taken the test over 10 years. So I am guessing it is reliable even though I frown at the very large score in ‘E’.

One thought on “Wrong but useful

  1. I totally agree with you in all these points! But I do think tests like MBTI can be useful if it helps people to identify their strengths and weaknesses. And perhaps opt for personal development. Anyway, I get why it can be cringey, especially when people “shove it on others faces” instead of taking the blame for their behaviours.

    Thanks for the interesting read!

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