The Cult of the All-Knowing Expert This week, Dr. Katherine W Hirsh returns for her third blog post in a guest series exploring the roots, merit and and the defensible nature of the MBTI® instrument. This week, Dr. Hirsh discusses the idea of expertise in test-administration, and how the value of the MBTI instrument – unlike some other assessments – hinges not on all-knowing expertise, but on self-exploration. Dr. Hirsh is a coach, consultant and type practitioner, co author of Introduction to Type and Teams®, Introduction to Type and Decision Making®, Introduction to Type and Reintegration®, and co-author of The MBTI Teambuilding Program: Leader’s Resource Guide®. As Partner in HirshWorks LLC and Creator of The Diversity Dividend, Dr. Hirsh has contributed so much not only to the Type community, but continues to perpetuate the value of diversity in the workplace – and the world – by fostering understanding and acceptance of different perspectives both inward and outward. I encourage my readers to read more on Dr. Hirsh in her bio section following this post. Post by Dr. Katherine W. Hirsh In my last post for the MBTI Junction, I wrote about how having a “beginner’s mind” may have helped Katharine Briggs and Isabel Myers craft the instrument they did with its positive outlook and its sixteen equally valuable possible outcomes (see that post here). I want to use this post to talk about the opposite end of the spectrum, expertise. Let’s start by examining where expertise is lodged in the typical testing situation. We tend to administer tests to rank or sort people according to some recognized standard and such standards are respected because they have been established by experts. We also think of tests as having right and wrong answers and see the right answers as right because an expert says they are. In the context of a psychological test, getting the right answer is important because it is often equated with psychological health and well-being and the wrong answer is often equated with mental illness or abnormality. What all of these features of the typical test have in common is the underlying assumption that outside expertise is necessary to come to understand whatever psychological characteristic is being measured, in this case, our personalities. It is the test or the person administering and interpreting it who knows best. This is quite different from the situation with type. Using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® requires the conviction that individuals, potentially naïve to the world of personality theory, are nonetheless capable of identifying their own particular way of operating. As a practitioner, I must have qualifications to use the MBTI, but they are intended to ensure that I understand the basic principles of its administration and application. However expert I may be though, it is not me who determines what type someone is. The expert in that regard is the person engaging in the best-fit type process. To make this self-discovery process successful, the client and I need to work together. My expertise is important to there being an ethical process; the client’s expertise is necessary to there being a meaningful outcome. I would argue that this difference in terms of where expertise is thought to lie is a key part of what makes psychological type so powerful. In line with Self-Determination Theory, having to uncover who you are for yourself, rather than a test, clinician or other professional telling you your type, supports the natural drive to grow and develop. The self-discovery process allows individuals to work in their own way to find their psychological type. Because they make the choice as to what they prefer, they are in control, not the Indicator and not its administrator. Furthermore, using a self-discovery process makes explicit that each individual has the ability to discover his or her own type and, in fact, is the only person with the expertise to do so. While the self-discovery process is designed to empower people, the relative novelty of being in control can also be a bit unnerving. With power comes responsibility and it can sometimes be more appealing to let others make our decisions for us. Indeed, given the norms around testing described above, our clients typically look to us to be the experts and it can appear simpler to tell them who they are than to guide them toward their own conclusions. To engage with the self-discovery process in a fashion that creates a real benefit requires courage on both sides. Type practitioners must be comfortable offering an invitation to self-exploration and then letting the client lead the way and clients must be ready to reveal their true selves. Why is it worth taking this path? Because, from this mutual openness, blossoms an internal drive for greater self-awareness grounded in respect for the uniqueness, independence and self-efficacy of the individual. With type in our toolkit, we can offer our clients the chance to unhook from the cult of the great and all-powerful expert and encourage them along the road to transformative self-discovery. About the Author Katherine Hirsh, Hamburg, Germany Dr. Hirsh is a partner in HirshWorks, LLC, a management and coaching consultancy devoted to improving the performance of individuals, groups, teams and organizations in their decision making, leadership, team work and teaching in order to increase personal and professional satisfaction and development. Dr Hirsh has been using psychological type and the MBTI® Tool in coaching, training, management consulting, education, and personal, professional and faculty development for over 25 years. She is a co-author with Elizabeth Hirsh and Sandra K. Hirsh of the second edition of Introduction to Type® and Teams and the second and third editions The MBTI® Teambuilding Program: Leader’s Resource Guide, co-author with Elizabeth Hirsh of Introduction to Type® and Decision Making and co-author with Elizabeth Hirsh and Jim Peak of Introduction to type® and reintegration: A framework for managing the transition home. CPP also publishes The MBTI® Decision-Making Style Report and portions of this report are integrated into the MBTI® Personal Impact Report. Dr Hirsh is active in the Type community, serving on the board of directors of the Association for Psychological Type International (APTi) in the tripartite role of President Elect-President-Past President from 2010-2012. She is a founding member of the APTi e-Chapter and was a program and curriculum evaluator for the APT International Online Learning Initiative. Some of the organizations for whom Dr Hirsh has facilitated MBTI® workshops have included the Association for Psychological Type International, the Australian Council for Education Research, the Australian Association for Psychological Type, The British Association for Psychological Type The European Association for Psychological Type, the New Zealand Association for Psychological Type, the Ontario Association for the Application of Psychological Type (Canada), OKA, Oxford Psychologists Press (UK), Thrive (Ireland), Innovative HR Solutions (UAE), Coca-Cola NA, Medtronic, and Proctor & Gamble – Europe to name a few. Additionally, Dr. Katherine W. Hirsh is the creator of The Diversity Dividend, a source of information and inspiration on all things concerning diversity. As she sees it, the challenge is to transform the notion of diversity from something that is force fed, top-down and prescribed by others into something that is internally driven, discovery-based, personally relevant and worthy of celebration. Whether it be leaders wanting to tap the talents of all team members or an HR manager tasked with addressing diversity issues, The Diversity Dividend is designed to show individuals and organizations how to take diversity programs in the direction of skill building and dynamic dialogue.