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, 2009). Here are more:
Two Thumbs Down
Will Thalheimer (email@example.com) urges caution when considering popular personality profiles such as the MBTI and DISC. "They may not pass scientific muster, and since scientific muster can translate into legal muster and business results, we ought to take notice."
For example, citing D.J. Pittenger's "Cautionary Comments Regarding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator," which was published in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 57, 210-221 (2005), he says that the MBTI is widely discredited by researchers and "is considered neither reliable nor valid."
Instead, Thalheimer points to the five-factor personality taxonomy. "It has been validated in many scientific studies and is the most widely regarded of the many personality models, especially as it relates to workplace behaviors. On the other hand, the MBTI has been studied and found wanting, and DISC has not been studied enough to be scientifically validated."
Thalheimer is president of Work-Learning Research Inc. in Somerville, Mass.
Don Bowlby (firstname.lastname@example.org) says that while the MBTI is a very good tool, he's found DISC to be "more useful in the business world." This is especially true, he says, for organizations that want to improve communication, build better teams and understand employees on a higher level. "The behavioral styles in the DISC profile can change over time, and communication styles can be adapted for improved understanding," he says. "When organizations are attempting to improve communications, it's helpful for employees to understand how they can adapt their communication style for better results."
Another reason Bowlby prefers DISC is owed to the number of supporting applications that organizations can use. "Using the same DISC model, you can generate management-specific reports, sales-specific reports and group reports." While it's helpful to understand a person's behavior, he says, it is even more beneficial to understand a person's management tendencies, how he can adapt his sales style to meet a customer's needs, and his preferred work environment.
"And group reports take DISC to a whole new dimension in personal profiling." For instance, Bowlby says that if you have a 30-person department and want to understand the makeup of the group, it is easy to generate a group DISC report that provides information on the following, all of which are important if you want to change a group's behavior or use its talents more effectively:
- The style of the group leaders.
- The most pronounced styles in the group.
- The type of work the group does.
- The historical culture of the group.
- The cohesion or tension of the group.
- The goals of the group and its mission(s).
The final and perhaps most important difference between the MBTI and DISC, according to Bowlby, is the training resources and/or materials available with DISC. "Inscape Publishing has produced a DISC facilitation system, along with sales- and management-specific application libraries, to help organizations better present training sessions using DISC." Trainers, consultants, HR managers and others who wish to use DISC to make changes within an organization can do so with little or no development time, Bowlby says. "Modules have been created to use the tool in every type of organizational environment."
Bowlby is VP of operations for Corexcel in Wilmington, Del.
Angela Segal (email@example.com) has used both tools "successfully" for more than 10 years for management development, team development, change management and career development. "They both have their merits." She says she’s frequently used DISC with technology teams. "It's quick and easy to understand the terminology. But I will use MBTI for one-on-one situations like career counseling and management development or interventions where I have more time to work with a client, often in addition to DISC." In Segal's experience, the MBTI provides a consistent profile. “The DISC can fluctuate to some degree based on responses to work environments."
Segal is an administrator at Latham & Watkins LLP in Newark, N.J.
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 issue!