Systems Thinking and Personality Types LO22564

AM de Lange (
Fri, 3 Sep 1999 11:48:08 +0200

Replying to LO22526 --

Dear Organlearners,

Vana Prewitt <> writes:

>Like Bill, I've been giving this question serious thought.
>I admit that when I was first introduced to MBTI back in the
>80's, I thought it was interesting, but not much else. Later,
>when I began to manage diverse groups of people and
>cross-functional teams, I found some valuable insights
>to the personality types with whom I worked.
>People who were not like me, and thus hard for me to
>understand and accept, were easier to comprehend when
>I was able to see the whole pattern of the fabric at once,
>when I could understand them holistically and not dwell
>on the single attribute that was confounding or aggravating
>me at the moment.

Greetings Vana,

I have connected to your reply because you express what many fellow
learners do -- the MBTI helped them to learn about personality.

What did they learn about personality? You highlight it:
(1) That there is a diversity in personalities
(2) Each person has to connect effectively to this diversity.
(3) Comprehension of personality requires a holistic approach.

See how you clearly brought three (fruitfulness, otherness and wholeness)
of the seven essentialities of creativity into the picture. The other four
are liveness, sureness, spareness and openness.

However, I do not want to dwell on the seven essentialities.

I want to draw attention to the evolutionistic pattern in learning about

The MBTI has four classes with two values per class.
This gives us 2x2x2x2 = 16 boxes (types) to fit personalties

When we become sensitive to diversity in personality (at an age between 5
and 8 years), we make us of one class with two values: usually "person
like me" and "person against me". Hence we try to fit all personalities
in these 2 (two) boxes. At first it works -- as a child we manage to fit
all the personalities of the few people which we have relationships with
into these two boxes. But soon some of us discover that some personalities
do not fit into this scheme.

Then (usually) follows the heroistic (idol) stage with two values: "person
like hero" and "person against hero". Again it works for some time, often
replacing the narcistic stage. It seems as if all personalities fit into
these 2 (two) boxes. Eventually most of us began to compare the second
scheme (usually heroistic) to the first scheme (usually narcistic).

In many of us a combination resulted -- a 2x2 scheme
resulting into 4 (four) boxes:
"person like me" and "person like hero".
"person like me" and "person against hero".
"person against me" and "person like hero".
"person against me" and "person against hero".
The two middle cases usually seemed to be impossible
so that the we ended up with the reduction:
"person like me" and "person like hero".
"person against me" and "person against hero".
Hence our search for a third two value class began which
also ends up in a reduction:
"person like a1" and "person like a2" and "person like a3"
"person unlike a1" and "person unlike a2" and "person unlike a3"
where a1=me, a2=hero, a3=???

Thus we have what you describe as:

>Like it or not, humans constantly strive to reduce
>complexities into simple snapshots that make for easier
>pattern recognition (thus stereotypes). This is good,
>because without this adaptive ability, we would be
>paralyzed and overhwhelmed with nonseniscal
>information. The flip side is that we often make erroneous
>assumptions when seeing something that resembles a
>predefined pattern and fail to explore the details carefully.

Yes, the flip side is that we throw away combinations
which does not fit in with our logic. For example, at the
beginning of our teenage years we throw away the
"person like me" and "person against hero".
"person against me" and "person like hero".
But fortunately, we are alive! Thus come the "storm
and desire" years in the middle teen-age when we begin
to realise intuitively that these two "illogical" cases do

It is then when our sensitivity to combinations and complexity is most
perilous. Some of us manage to set up (intuitively) a 2x2 scheme in which
all of the 4 boxes survive. But in some others the reduction into a 2 box
outcome takes precedence. For those whom all 4 boxes survive, the next
step of development to 2x2x2 = 8 comes easy. But for the others the
development becomes very dificult, if coming at all.

Few of us realised at the end of our teenage years that there is a much
greater diversity than the 2x2x2 = 8 scheme. Thus we kept on trying to
fit hundreds of different personalities into the 8 boxes, or 2 , 4 (2x2),
or 16 (2x2x2x2) boxes for the same matter.

Even less of us realise that the
2 = 2
2x2 = 4
2x2x2 = 8
2x2x2x2 = 16
schemes are nothing else than the beginning of creating
profiles. Yes, the 2x2x2x2 = 16 boxes are nothing else
than creating 16 different "standard" profiles. Consequently,
by trying to put the personalities of hundreds of people, each
unique, into one of the 16 boxes available, we actually are
profiling personalities.

Now, if there are 4 and only 4 features of personality, each feature
having only two possibilities, then there is nothing wrong with putting
all these hundreds of personalities into these 16 boxes ("standard
profiles"). But should we have overlooked just one feature so that there
are actually 5 features with 2 values each so that there are 2x2x2x2x2 =32
"standard profiles", then we are not profiling persons any more when still
using 16 boxes. So what are we then doing with those 16 boxes or "standard
profiles" when ignoring a fifth feature? Sadly, we are derogating
personalities rather than profiling them.

Let us try to form a movie of profiling rather than looking at
a picture of profiling. Observe the pattern
2 = 2
2x2 = 4
2x2x2 = 8
2x2x2x2 = 16
2x2x2x2x2 = 32
2x2x2x2x2x2 = 64
2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 128
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 256

The number of classes increases linearly:
1 => 2 => 3 => 4 => 5 => 6 => 7 => 8
Way say the increase (change) is linear because the
difference in each step is 1 and thus CONSTANT (a
"being"). However, the number of boxes, now seen as
possible profiles, increases as
2 => 4 => 8 => 16 => 32 => 64 => 128 => 256
This increase (Change) is non-linear because the
difference from step to step VARIES (a "becoming")
(The variation in this cased is called an exponential

In computer science 8 classes (with two values each) is called a "binary
byte". One class (with two values) is called a "binary bit". Bill Gates,
powerful and rich as he is, used to make foolish predictions on computer
technology because of his fixation on the "binary byte", the key feature
of DOS (which helped Gates to become rich and powerful).

Can we really fit the unique personalities of a million
people in 256 profiles, a "binary byte"? How many bits
do we need to provide for at least 1 000 000 profiles?
2 = 2
2x2x2x2 = 16
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 256
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 4096
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 65 536
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 1 048 576
We need at least 20 binary bits (two value classes)!

So, if we want to fit all the unique personalities of all people who lived
and who are still living, we will need at least 32 binary bits! In other
words, we will have to look at least 32 different features of presonality.
What a complex task!

However, there is a nice complication in this complexity. We are thinking
in terms of TWO valued classes (BINARY bits). What about THREE valued
classes (TERNARY bits)? The MBTI is a BINARY system and hence will not
qualify. To think of ternary, quaternary, etc bits, we have to leave the
world of BINARY logic (which we used since childhood) and emerge into the
world of MULTIVALUE logic with FUZZY logic right at its ceiling. Let us
think just in terms of numbers of this new world we have to emerge into.

Let us begin with ternary bits. Observe the pattern
3 = 3
3x3 = 9
3x3x3 = 27
3x3x3x3 = 81
3x3x3x3x3 = 243
Compare the last line with
2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2 = 256
Five (5) ternary (3) bits are almost just as powerful as
eight (8) binary (2) bits. In other words, by increasing
the values of each bit, we need less bits to create a
certain number of profiling boxes. See for example
4x4x4x4 = 256 (four quaternary bits)

So for 10 000 000 000 million different personalities (all the humans we
can think of), should we make use of classes each having 10 values, we
will need merely 10 such classes! Unfortunately, life is not as regular as
that. For some personality features we have to teckon with only two
values in each. For others we have to reckon with three values in each.
For some we have to reckon with even more than 10 values in each. Thus the
picture is rather fuzzy unless we paint it richer and richer.

The lesson which we all ought to learn is that as soon as we CLOSE either
the number of features or the number of values in any feature, we may
easilly abort our profiling of personalities into the derogating of
personalities. In other words, as soon as the essentiality OPENNESS of
creativity becomes impaired, our very profiling of personalities becomes

Here is one of the reasons why a chromatograph has become such a powerful
instrument (tool) in chemistry. It places no fixed value on the number of
cases (different substances), nor places any fixed number on the values of
each case (amount of a substance). If there are 19 substances in the
mixture (ingredients in the soup), then it works with all 19 of them, each
as a unique substance. If there are thousands of different amounts of
each substance possible, then it works with all these amounts possible.

So what is responsible for VERSATILITY of the chromatograph to be able to
profile such a DIVERSITY of composition (organisation)? If we are able to
answer this question, would it not give us a fantastic insight into how to
deal with the personalities of ALL people, each person having a UNIQUE
personality? What will make each of us versatile enough to be able to cope
with the immense diversity among all of us? Is the answer to this question
not what we are really trying to learn despite the tyranny of all the

Vana, you write:

>Thus, a type inclined to think holistically may get one type
>of intervention while a type with a disinclination would
>receive an alternative intervention. This would be a
>fascinating piece of social research in OD if anyone
>could pull it off.

Considering holism as "on gounds" or "off limits" is a two valued bit.
Holism concerns the essentiality wholeness. When wholeness becomes more
important than any other essentiality, it becomes holism. Many people are
now beyond the phase of two valued thinking in wholeness. Some holists
are in the three valued phase. Few have emerged to the highest level of
allowing any number of values in wholeness. Some are trying to pull it
off, but are met with immense resistance.

Trying to pull off a multivalued vision in all seven essentialities is a
hopeless task. However we should never confuse authentic learning with
"pulling off" task.

Authentic learning itself is a most extraordinary profiling task. It is
far more than merely learning how to profile a personality. Learning a
particular subject is the profiling of that subject. One of central
features of authentic learning is the profiling of creativity -- the
second loop of so-called "double loop learning". One of the first things
which I guide any self-learner into is to stop fixing by assumption the
number of classes and the values to each class when profiling anything.
Mka sure that the assumptions are correct.

Self-learners have stopped fixing things into one thing. Is this not what
you, Vana, are saying with:

>I'm not a big fan of the "one size fits all" mentality. I have
>found over the years that what works for Joe may not work
>for Sally. And Bob could be totally lost unless he gets the
>message in a different format. I see these issues most
>clearly with learning styles, but often come in contact
>with them with personality types, and the "seven
>intelligences." All of these approaches are pretty
>controversial, and a lot of folks think they are so much
>mumbo jumbo.

What I guide self-learners to do, is to use their creativity in a
constructive sense and thus learn from experiences so gained. Creating a
few boxes (2, 4, 8, 16, ....) is part of that creative learning. Creating
once again boxes, but now in the pattern 3, 9, 27, 81, ... is the result
of a paradigm shift. Each time it is a one-to-many-mapping. But to
provide for a one-to-many-mapping not only in the number of classes and
the values of each class for a particular quality like personality, but to
seek the harmony between form (classes) and content (values) everywhere in
live, is a grand paradigm shift.

So, what is this "one-to-many-mapping"?
Is the creativity of each of us not a "one-to-many-mapping"?
Is the personalities of other people which each of us have to
cope with, not a "one-to-many-mapping"?
Is the learning Organisation which we try to understand,
not a ""one-to-many-mapping"?
Is life itself not a "one-to-many-mapping"?
Is the work of God Creator not a "one-to-many-mapping"?
So, what is this "one-to-many-mapping" after all?

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

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>