Systems Thinking and Personality Types LO22515

J.C. Lelie (
Tue, 31 Aug 1999 00:09:23 +0200

Replying to LO22502 --

Hi Chuck,

All people can be divided into two groups: those that divide people into
two groups and those that don't. I belong to the second group. I'll
happily divide people into four groups. And these groups nicely fit into
the four main types from Meyers-Briggs, or most other group divisions.

Also i've been learned never to confront a manager with anything that is
more complicated than a two times two matrix! So Meyer-Briggs Typology,
with its 16 different types is way to complicated.

If you're interested, i'll tell you how i use it and what i think is the
relation with a learning organization.

Everybody is just busy to find answers to the question: "who am i?". Or
"why am i?", "what am i?", "how should i live?", these, to me, are the
same questions, or question-types. And there you are: everybody asks
different questions, depending on their personality, their upbringing
(some questions were labelled "taboo" early in life, later on they'll
become heretics and initiate change), their culture, their experience and
- perhaps - whether they are satified with the answers they get. "Why,
why i, can we never be sure till we try ....? " who's song was that? It is
a song by Genesis (the pop-group, not the book) i think, which album?.

The way to find the answers is to pose questions. So everybody is asking
questions in their own special, unique way, like: "how do is solve this
problem?", "what should i do now?", "where am i going?". Well, i think
that the reality outside ourselves (you, me, she, he), works like a kind
of mirror. We look into it, project our visions on it. Other people will
also impose their images on you and others. Your parents, the people whom
you grew up with, your fellow country men. I had to discover that a lot of
my images were not mine, but were imposed, implanted by my mother. She
cared, so she expressed herself in projections of all kinds of feelings,
do's and don'ts, that i had to get rid of. Not nice, but inevitable.

In this way you'll get your answers, reality supplies the answers, but not
directly. It is all in a indirect, most of the time distorted. The
refeclection are not with the speed of light: a certain question will come
back to you with an answer when you least expect it. Like an echo in a
very deep well of from a forest. Personnally i experience any organisation
as an answer to a question somebody posed. ("Ask a silly question, get a
silly answer ;-D").

I think that the meaning we give to our own lives expresses itself in the
things, the artefacts, the results of our work. Most people would agree
that this is the case with art, but that, in my view, is a sublime
manifestation. As an example, all our great Dutch painters, Vermeer,
Rembrandt van Rijn, Van Gogh and also Mondriaan were in search of
themselves. Rembrandt painted self-portraits through the whole of his
life. Vermeer touches us, just because he searches for the meaning in the
ordinary things. All great artists, i think, have very strong
personalities that will not accept, or will hardly accept visions,
meanings from others. Perhaps except from their "Muses".

And i think that this is also the case with any organisation. It is the
expression of self, self-realization. That is why we sometimes admire the
great enterprises. To boldy go were no one has gone before: perhaps that
is why big organizations nowadays like shining towers with thousands of
mirrors. Now, for a big organization, you'll need a big personality. A
true enterpreneur will not be interested in financial planning, nor in
people. He'll see both as a means to his ends. For a small organization,
you'll need somebody who'll care for other, who'll not be interested in
making much money or inventing new gadgets. There'll be sixteen main
types of organisations. A Learning Organisation is the one that is
extrovert, innovating, facilitating change. On the one hand it will be
concerned with people, on the other hand with new ideas. It will not
supply many priests but a lot of prophets.

Now, nature likes simple designs, so there will be only a limited amount
of different personality types, questions, elements, what have you. I
think that one attitude was too little (introvert/extraverts) - or too
less, how do i say this in English - so two more functions were added
(sensing/intuition) and (thinking/feeling). And a second
attitude(judging/perceving) seems to be needed to make it work. When you
think long enough, there'll probably be an evolutionary explanation.

In the search for the meaning of life, we'll inevitably be confronted with
what Jung calls our shadow, the opposite of what you are or want to be.
This may express itself in a midd-life crisis, what ever. I personally
became "overworked". So a big organisation will be confronted with change,
loss of control. A learning organisation will have to learn to live with
routines, standards, procedures, financial planning and making a healthy
profit (- a healthy prophet ;-).

Systems thinking will be applied best by people who prefer to understand
how things work, who like theories, principles and also ideas, symbols and
metaphores ("the tragedy of the commons"). They'll be less interested in
facts, objects, working and also have a hard time coping with feelings,
values and wants. When i ask "systems thinking" questions, after
sometime, i get "ethical answers" that do not fit the system.

Also, and that is the nice thing with systems, the interpretation will be
different for different people. Systems in Systems Thinking, are kind of
neutral to projections, so everybody will read, will see, will get
whatever he or she expects.

Altough at first i resisted strongly against personality types, i must say
that i use them more and more. As a metaphore, of course, but none the
less. Now, as everybody is a manager, or a womanager, what's in a name,
gr, we want simple explanation, nothing more complicated that a two times
two matrix.

I could add some more topics, like that we'll have to learn to appriciate,
accept, respect differences, to treat others like we want to be treated
ourselves, that we'll have to (re)learn to work from our core, to reach
our spiritual goal and that this will lead to the next fad in
organizational theory: "the art and pratices of the compasionate
organisation" - but i won't.

Adios, comrade,

Jan Lelie wrote:
> Has anyone attempted to utilize personality typing (Meyers-Briggs or
> Keirsey Temperament Sorter) to determine those in an organization that
> are "built" for holistic or systems thinking?


Drs J.C. Lelie CPIM (Jan) LOGISENS - Sparring Partner in Logistical Development Mind@Work - est. 1998 - Group Decision Process Support Tel.: (+ 31) (0)70 3243475 or car: (+ 31)(0)65 4685114 and/or taoSystems: + 31 (0)30 6377973 -

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