Systems Thinking and Personality Types LO22555

AM de Lange (
Thu, 2 Sep 1999 14:31:49 +0200

Replying to LO22531 --

Dear Organlearners,

Glen Burns <> writes:

>I have read several of the contributions inregards to
>Systems Thinking and Personality Types. The main
>response in me is to put a new twist on it. The twist
>is to start looking more at Personality Profiling than
>personality typing.
>The difference is personality typing is far cry from the
>accuracy and art form of personality profiling. Personality
>Profiling also has a history of accuracy that can be
>measured and therefore more reliable and valid in
>applied contexts.
>The main area Profiling is used is in Forensic Psychology.
>It was first brought to the field by John Douglas of the FBI.
>He wrote several books. One I recommend is "Mind Hunter".

Greetings Glen,

Thank you very much for your very valuable contribution.

My position is that I consider the PP (Personality Profile) of each person
to be unique. It is not an assumption which I still have to test, but a
conclusion after many thousands of experiences. Since you have refered to
Forensic Science (FC), let me use a metaphor from FC.

The PP of each person is like the fingerprints of that person. It is
possible and has been of great value to classify the fingerprints of
people. But the categoricity of this classification is that no two
individuals (among billions) have exactly the same fingerprints. The
categoricity of PP classification is that no two individuals (among
billions) have exactly the same PP.

No court of law will find someone guilty if the fingerprints of that
person belong to the same class/taxon as the fingerprints of the culprit.
It has to be exactly the same fingerprints to establish the identity.

This metaphor of comparing PPs with fingerprints afford me to point out a
second facet in my own Systems Thinking (call it a mental model because it
seems as if only I work on such a Systems Thinking). Whereas the
fingerprints of an individual changes very little during adult life, the
PP of an individual CAN (but not necessarily will) change remarkedly
during adult life.

If the PP of a person CAN change, how can we be sure that it WILL change?
This is where Senge's Personal Mastery (authentic learning, learning
emerging from creativity or or irreversible self-organisation) comes into
the picture. When the PP of a person changes as a result of Personal
Mastery, it is as if that person's PP meanders through the various
Pesonality Types (PTs) set up by various kinds of personality tests.

In biology such a meandering of a PP through PTs may beconsidered as the
subject of philogenetics. Think of a PP as a gene pool and the PT as the
taxons (classes) of the classification system. Setting up the various PTs
(taxons) so that we have a minimum, but still useful, number of them is
called cladistics, a major discipline of philogenetics. Philogenetics
concerns the one-to-many-mapping of biological species and cladistics is
the attempt to establish the mapping exactly.

(Interesting, and very important for biologists, is that a "specimen" and
the fist class in the tree of classes to which it belongs, namely the
"species", are not considered as taxons. All the classes further away in
the tree like "genus", "family", "tribe" and "order" are called taxons.
In terms of personalities the PP and the case ISTJ, of say the BMTI, will
not be called taxons. Now why would you think biologists make such a
strange distinction?)

Philogenetics itself is one of the two main parts of all evolution
theories The second main part of them concerns the cause or mechanism for
this one-to-many-mapping (first part of the theory). For example, Lamarck
(1802) offered "enviromental factors" as the cause. Darwin (1859)
claimed "natural selection" as the mechanism. Smuts (1911) proposed
"power of the whole" as the mechanism. Prigogine (1979) followed with
"entropy production" as the cause.

Evolution theories are a main ingredient of what is sometimes refered to
in biology (botany, zoology and microbiology) as systematics. However,
some biologists refer to systematics merely as the classification task of
biology. But others are beginning to realise that not only are
nomenclature and mophological ("being") features important in biological
systematics, but also phsyicological ("becoming") features. Thus the
viewpoints on what biological systematics entails, are now changing
drastically. It is as if a paradigm shift is happening.

The analogy between Biological Systematics for the biological sciences and
Systems Thinking for the organisational sciences is too obvious not to
investigate any further. But I will leave it at this point.

One of the important goals of a LO for me is to make the meandering of the
PP through the various PTs possible. (In contrast to a PP, fingerprints
cannot meander.) Perhaps other will feel differently about this goal for
LOs. But in my mission of midwifery (teaching) the meandering of a
person's PP through the various PTs is of utmost importance to me. Many
learning disorders and disabilities result from a PP getting stuck into a
particular PT.

Glen, it is most interesting that people from Forensic Science contributed
so much to PP. Forensic Science is an interdisciplinary science involving
many subjects like phsyics, chemistry, biology, psychology and even
anthropology. It is especially in polyethnic and multicultural societies
where the anthropological angle becomes very important.

Two of the most powerful instruments (tools) in Forensic Science is the
computer and the chromatograph. It is the chromatograph which identifies
and athlete who has been cheating by taking illegal drugs like steroids.
The reason why this chromatograph catches them out, is because they have
not even a clue how sensitive it is.

Here is a metaphor of how sensitive it is. There are billions of people
living today. Let us think of all the people, living and dead - a couple
of millions of millions of them. Let us think of one unique person among
them. Let us now think of a tool which will enable us to make contact with
that unique person among millions of millions of people in one single
measurement. The chromatograph is exactly such a kind of tool. (Christians
may understand the metaphor of the Holy Spirit as the chromatograph of
Jesus Christ.)

This sensitivity is not the only feature which makes a chromatograph so
powerful. Its other feature is that it provides us with a profile of all
the substances which together form a complex mixture. The mixture can
contain thousands of different substances. This profile of the substances
of a mixture is called a chromatogram. It consists of peaks distributed
all along the chromatogram -- one peak for every substance. In other
words, the chromatogram (substance profile) act as a fingerprint of the

Some mixtures subjected to chromatograph analysis, like the "soup" made
from the DNA of living cells of any living specimen, are very
characterestic of that specimen. If the specimen is a human, the
chromatogram of DNA soup is like the fingerprints of that person -- it is
unique to that person. Few criminals, despite the intelligence of some,
seems to understand this immensely important feature of a chromatograph,
namely chemical profiling.

But let me use the chromatograph once again as a metaphor to warn that
Personality Profile of an authentic learner is not like the chromatogram
of a person's DNA soup. The chromatogram of a person's DNA soup is fixed
for live (unless we begin to meddle with genetical engineering). Thus
Personality is not something like heredity.

However, all living organisms have two properties in common, heredity
(DNA) and catalysis (enzymes). Enzymes accelerate or inhibit biochemical
reactions. In other words, whereas DNA is a chemical being, enzymes
influence chemical becoming. Thus, when we think of personality in terms
of biological systems, we should not think of it as being (like DNA) or
becoming (enzymes), but as both, as a becoming-being.

So how can we think of the unique personality (becoming-being) of a
person in terms of a chromatogram? Think of a chromatogram in which the
height of each peak is changing. Some peaks remain at the same height
forever. Others fluctuate up and down, some increase only and the rest
decrease only. Should we able to construct a Personality Profile
consistently and coherently for any person every day, then we will see the
same thing over many days.

In highly technical audio work, technicians make use of so called sound
profilers. It breaks the spectrum of audible frequencies (20 -- 20 000
herz) in say 100 Hz intervals, resulting in 200 such intervals. It then
analysis any complex sound in its !00 Hz frequency intervals and the
amplitude of sound for each such an interval. It is very instructive to
look at these everchanging sound profiles when a complex pieces of music
is performed. Try to relate these changes in sound profiles to texture,
harmony and rythm. Some expensive HiFi systems have (cheap) Sound
Profilers as a feature, but they are good enough to observe the pattern.

For me every person's Personality Profile PP is like the sound profile of
music. The sound profile of one beat may be interesting, but of little use
to characterise the whole partiture (piece of music). It is when we
compare the sound profile from beat to beat when the partiture unfolds
itself. Likewise the personality of a person. The personality of a person
has to unfold itself from beat to beat. Thus the life of that person
becomes a symphony or a cacaphony.

We can think of PP not only as a beat on a sound profile, but also as a
picture belonging to a flash in that person's life. We should try to think
of a succession of PPs like a succession of pictures, one for every flash.
This string of pictures then becomes a movie. This is how personality
works. Personality is a movie and not a picture. The personality of a
person is in danger when that movie begin to flutter irregularly or even
stops to become a static picture. The art of authentic learning (Personal
Mastery) is to keep that movie rolling consistently.

We can always see the roles of the scriptwriter and the director in a
movie. We can always hear the role of the composer and the conductor in a
symphonie. We can always see the role of the specimen and the scientist in
a chromatogram. The same with Personality Profiles Each perfomance is
unique, but in the background we recognise two other parties having a
vital influence on the Personality Profile. Who or what are these two

>My twist was to assist the group here in maybe
>looking at it from a more effective and modern perspective.
>Check out the books I mentioned -- they are fascinating
>As a side note I practise my profiling skills here by
>predicting how people will respond to contributions and
>the gists of the responses.
>Just some thoughts on the matter,

Again, thank you very much Glen. Taking a clue from you, I have tried to
help fellow learners to look at personality from the perspective of
complexity. Much of it consists of very modern insights. However, it is
also possible to give a perspective of personality in terms of very
ancient insights still with us today. Hopefully somebody else will do it.

Perhaps I have painted personality too rich. Thus I have
to summarise what is most important for me as a
teacher about personality.
(1) Each person's personality is unique
(2) Personality is a becoming-being.
(3) Personality evolves through the creativity and
learning of a person -- self-organisation
(4) Personality is part of a bigger picture in which
the composer and conductor and not only the
performer also play major roles.
(5) The two most serious problems concerning
personality is when a person's personality
stops developing, or our preception of a person's
personality stops developing.

Best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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