A Training Top 125 reader is considering adding a personality profile instrument to the mix of tools and assessments currently employed by her company. "The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and DISC assessment seem to be our two frontrunners. What are the relative merits of each for workforce development purposes? Which would others suggest I use, if given a choice between the two?"
We ran responses to this challenge in previous issues (December 25, 2008, and January 22 and February 23, 2009). Here are more:
Bo Boylan (email@example.com) uses both MBTI and DISC routinely in his firm’s consulting practice. "Clients often ask us to comment on whether MBTI is better than DISC or vice versa," Boylan says. "We believe that you can’t answer the question unless you have a clear understanding of what the client is after and some larger context of what the learning objective is."
Boylan notes that a common refrain he hears is that the DISC methodology, when properly positioned with learning objectives in mind, tends to be stickier. "Six to 12 months after engaging in a DISC session, people remember how to use the tool in their everyday work life more successfully than they remember the MBTI."
Boylan is a principal with Ravenwood Consulting Group Inc.
Marcie Schorr Hirsch (firstname.lastname@example.org) uses both instruments extensively and prefers DISC with groups and MBTI with individuals. "DISC looks at behavioral preferences, and the foundational assumption of the instrument is that an individual's behavioral preference can change depending on context. In other words, a person might be one DISC type at home and another at work," she says. "MBTI, by contrast, assesses an individual's fundamental, innate orientation—how one is wired, so to speak. Unless the instrument is administered at a time of significant stress for the subject, the MBTI score should not vary much over an individual's lifetime."
Hirsch prefers DISC in workplace settings with groups because people are generally more likely to be comfortable revealing their results. "They feel less exposed with an assessment that purports to be a response to context rather than a fundamental psychological 'fingerprint,'" she notes. "There is also less value judgment ascribed to the different types because the perception is that all the options are up for grabs should an individual opt to change his or her behavior." She also opts for DISC in the workplace because MBTI can be threatening given that it purports to represent unalterable psychological dispositions. "People may not wish to share that sort of information with a group of people with whom they work," she says.
Hirsch also finds the DISC model to be user-friendly, easy to comprehend and extremely well-remembered. "When I return to an organization where I have used DISC, folks frequently spot me and remind me that they are an 'I' or an 'S.' The framework seems to stick in people’s minds and they can and do use it easily among themselves long after the training has ended," she says.
When working with individuals, however, Hirsch says she prefers MBTI because it offers “terrific, meaty feedback that explains why an individual sees the world as she or he does. This kind of conversation is often quite personal and is more comfortably heard in a private setting." Hirsch notes that the MBTI instrument is methodologically sound and that there is an enormous amount of relevant information (including correlation with other instruments) that can be drawn upon to enhance an individual's self-understanding. "In one-on-one work, I can dive deeply into the assessment and its implications, and work at length with the subject to ensure that it is understood and that he or she derives benefits from the instrument's subtleties. The MBTI is not an easy framework to grasp quickly, and because I am using it with a single individual, the entire time together is spent focusing on that person's type, not the 15 other types."
Hirsch is a principal in HirschHills Associates, a boutique management consulting firm based in Newton, Mass.
Ralph Hall (email@example.com) says that if he could choose only one assessment, he would avoid both DISC and MBTI in favor of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI). "HBDI is simple to understand, and, most importantly, avoids labeling individuals as one thing or another," he says. "The premise is that we all have access to all 'quadrants of our brain' at all times, but we do have preferences as to how we approach any given situation."
According to Hall, HBDI provides a framework for decision-making and team-building. "This framework leans on the strengths of each individual, yet acknowledges that even though [an individual] may have an immediate preference [in one area], [he or she] also can be creative or process-oriented or even provide excellent [data-driven] analysis," Hall explains.
The greatest danger with these types of tools is the potential for misuse, Hall notes. "If you [were to] label me as a 'creative type' as a result of some assessment, there [may be] a tendency to dismiss my analytical skills and, as a result, the organization loses out."
Hall is a senior software trainer with Columbia Ultimate in Vancouver, Wash.
HAVE OTHER INPUT OR TIPS ... on this topic? If so, send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "DISC VS. MBTI" and we'll try to include your input in an upcoming Top 125 newsletter issue!