A view from Dave Trott: What flavour ice-cream are you?
A view from Dave Trott

What flavour ice-cream are you?

If you’re a creative, you got your job based on your portfolio.

If you’re not a creative, you might have had to take a personality test instead.

Personality testing is a $2bn industry.

The biggest and most fashionable test is Myers-Briggs.

Two million people take Myers-Briggs every year.

It’s used in 26 countries.

Eighty-nine of the top Fortune 100 companies use Myers-Briggs.

So what exactly is the Myers-Briggs test?

It was created by a mother and daughter, Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers, many years ago.

In their large family, they had many disagreements.

Katharine read Carl Jung’s book Psychological Types and it all became clear to her.

Jung stated that there were six basic personality types.

Suddenly Katherine saw that the members of her family simply had different personality types.

But not just six as Jung said – she could see eight distinct types.

She, and her daughter, saw an opportunity.

What we would now call a gap in the market.

These distinctions could be applied to "the intelligent division of labour".

In other words, which type of people would be suited to which jobs.

This was something they could sell to employers.

It explained in scientific-sounding terms why some people were better at certain jobs.

The personality is divided among four binary groups.

You are either: Introvert or Extrovert, also either Literal or Intuitive, and either Logical or Emotional, plus either Decisive or Changeable.

The result is decided by a series of questions which define you.

Once you’ve chosen your preferences, you become one of 16 personality types.

In 1943, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was copyrighted.

It virtually created the industry of personality testing that followed.

This was because the human mind has always taken comfort from easy solutions.

It’s reassuring for us to believe things really are so simple and clear.

That humans can be reduced to formulas.

That’s why horoscopes are popular.

Or quizzes about what sort of person you are based on what flavour ice-cream you prefer.

In medieval times, your personality was defined by the humours: yellow bile, black bile, phlegm or blood.

Too much yellow bile made you choleric, too much black bile made you melancholic, too much phlegm made you phlegmatic, and too much blood made you sanguine.

Nowadays we laugh at people who believed in the four humours.

But, to update that: if you are choleric, you are driven and should work in management.

If you are melancholic, you are a traditionalist and should work in finance or accounting.

If you are phlegmatic, you are a people person and should work in HR or teaching.

If you are sanguine, you are optimistic and should work in advertising or marketing.

Myers-Briggs is the modern equivalent of the humours.

An easy way to pigeonhole people so we don’t have to think too much.

Myers-Briggs is based on the belief that we work better with people who are like us.

So we should surround ourselves with people like us.

Or, as Jerry Seinfeld put it in an episode of Seinfeld: "Now I know what I’ve been looking for all these years: myself. I’ve been waiting for me to come along, and now I’ve swept me off my feet."

Sounds a bit boring to me.

It doesn’t sound very creative, it just sounds like uniformity.

Dave Trott is the author of Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three.