Looking Back at Looking Forward

sharing knowledge about organisational foresight

Personality types and the art of the long-term view

I recently had the chance to go on a Relational Leadership program at Mt Eliza (Melbourne Business School). One of the features was the most comprehensive Myers-Briggs personality assessments. I compared my result with others, looking for preferences that lend themselves to the art of the long-term view. Four types stood out: INFJ, INFP, ENFP, and INTP (with a little ENTJ). There is just one common element ‘N’ for intuitive. The other interesting result is that ‘S’ types (sensing world) do not fit the mould at all.

I’ve paraphrased some of the characteristics by type. INFJs seek meaning and connection in ideas and relationships (i.e. systems thinkers). INFPs are curious and quick to see possibilities. They are adaptable and flexible and they seek to understand people. ENFPs are imaginative – life is seen as full of possibilities (born optimists). They make connections between events and information very quickly (the big picture). INTPs are theoretical and abstract…and interested in ideas. They are also flexible and adaptable (tolerant of ambiguity and complexity?). I’ve included ENTJs for their preference for long-term planning and goal setting. I’ve taken this test about three times now. I scored an ENFP but really fall between and ‘E’ and an ‘I’.

So what’s the rub? The sensory world does not have a preference for the long-term view. According to Machiavelli (more about him later) most people don’t really believe in anything new until they have actual experience of it Standardised processes and protocols are the norm. Their focus is on the immediate sensory experience – their own work – rather the whole. The future is seen as being nebulous and of no value.

Problem is that the longer-term view is abstract, conceptual and holistic. It most certainly helps to have a good imagination and an intuitive feel for inter-relationships between people, events and things. Nothing is certain. Thinking about the future disturbs the present.

That helped me to understand why promoting strategic, long-term thinking in organisations is so hard. More on this issue later.


January 30, 2007 - Posted by | foresight, knowledge networks | , , , , ,

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