The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jun 13, 2010

Myers a Squibb?

It’s a terrible thing being a cynic. A dose of realism might serve to check otiose imaginings in people. There might even be humour in a drily understated dismissal of overconfidence. But cynicism drains enthusiasm, fills people with jadedness, never allows for improvement. So what is it about team-building exercises that makes them so susceptible to cynical attack?

I attended one such session once. It started off with a self-evaluation of all attendees under the Myers-Briggs methodology. Those who know this psychometric evaluation will recognise the axes – the four dimensions on which one is scored. These are an axis from Introvert (I) to Extravert (E), another from Sensing (S) to Intuition (N), a third from Thinking (T) to Feeling (F), and a last one from Judgment (J) to Perception (P). Most financial investment types appear to fall within the NTP or STP, with roughly equal numbers among Introverts and Extraverts. The consultants who conducted the workshop repeated several times that these were not deficiencies or drawbacks, and were merely aimed at informing the attendees that there were colleagues who scored differently, and therefore thought differently, and appreciation of this would enable them to work better with each other. There are, they said, the rare F types who needed to be nurtured, for they would be the ones who be the social glue that kept the company going.

Which is all very well. Except that there’s been considerable criticism of the Myers-Briggs methodology. And anyway, the way people score depends upon their own state of mind, their moods on the day, the weather, their levels of impatience with answering sixty-odd questions. It’s very like wine-tasting in its margin for error.

It got a bit more bizarre later. A stand-up comic improvisational artist was brought on stage to teach us how to relax and think on our feet and lose our inhibitions and, well, improvise. It has to be said that despite considerable encouragement and advice, a very few people came up on stage – and, it turned out after a while, the same people over and over again with the occasional exception. So what did this achieve? We learned the three-line improvisation. We learned that we should ‘listen’, ‘say yes’ and ‘commit.’ Somehow that translated to our workplace as well, we were told. We had fun.

I wonder how many people would remember any of this in a month. How many would recall the Myers-Briggs classification of their teammates? How often would they feel the urge to nurture the F type, even if they found one? Will they ever improvise whilst in client meetings? In our industry we need to be very careful and honest about what we say to clients. Thinking on one’s feet, I suspect, would be a bit counter to that.

And so again, the cynic’s fell mien envelops me.


km said...

You know who else believed in team-building exercises? Hitler, that's who.

//you don't happen to work at a certain large American pharmaceutical company, do you? :)

Fëanor said...

Wow, the very first comment on this thread refers to Hitler. That's gotta be a first, heh.

And, nope.

km said...

I've been closely involved with the implementation of Godwin's Law since 1994.

Veena said...

Have you noticed significant differences in how different cultures approach these team building things? In specific, this side and that side of the pond? People are way more cynical and therefore these things are way more funner here imo.

Fëanor said...

Some people did point out that if a bunch of Americans was asked if their team would win the World Cup, they'd very likely say, 'of course.' Whereas the English, you know, would never admit to ever feeling that way. Same thing with team-building, I guess?

Veena said...

Feanor: Huh, what World Cup? You mean like you know Americans who actually know there is a World Cup going on? Really?

Fëanor said...

Some 10000 of them descended upon South Africa for the match against England. So some people clearly are aware!

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