Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Process or product?

I've long known that I am a process person, and not a product person. Metaphorically speaking, I take far more pleasure from the journey than the destination. I gain more satisfaction in working towards something than just 'getting there' and ticking something off as 'completed', or even basking in achievements. I guess you could say that I'm a typical 'work in progress' kind of person; it's not really surprising that I'm drawn to projects such as 101 things in 1001 days and Project 365.

A number of years ago, at the school where I used to teach, our whole staff of about 10 teachers went on a course related to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. During each two hour session (one a week for three weeks) we answered questions about ourselves and discussed what our preferences were for handling different situations and scenarios.

My Myers-Briggs results came out as ISTP, that is introverted (rather than extroverted), sensing (rather than intuitive), thinking (rather than feeling), and perceiving (rather than judging). Of these four continua, I scored extreme levels of introversion (I) and perception (P) and was borderline between sensing/intuition (S/N) and thinking/feeling (T/F). But what does this actually mean?

I recently carried out a search for explanations of the Myers-Briggs personality types. In one, ISTP was described as a mechanic. While some of these traits are true, most of this explanation could not be further from my personality! (You won't catch me skydiving, and I don't really care about how things work - I'm more of a 'big picture' person. And as for tying up loose ends?? LOL)

At the time of the course, the descriptions we studied all made sense. Yes, I'm very much introverted. Yes, I try to make sense of a problem before tackling it, although I tend to let gut feeling and intuition influence my final decision. Yes, I try to rationalise problems and think my way through them (not always successfully - I'm still quite close to 'feeling' on the continuum, and I'm a champion at over-thinking). It's the perceiving/judging continuum that causes most confusion when explaining it to others, though. The definition for perceiving involves someone who is able to handle multiple scenarios at once, including unresolved situations; instead, perceivers are happy to come back to them later to pick up and carry on with when ready. Judging personalities, however, need closure; they need to have the box ticked, task completed, desk tidied (that's definitely not me!) etc before they feel comfortable enough to move on to the next activity. Disorder bothers them.

After the course finished, we sat down as a staff to discuss our similarities and differences with the purpose of better understanding each other and, therefore, working together more effectively. From a teaching staff of ten, eight were judging personalities; myself and another colleague, both creative/musician-type teachers, were very firmly perceiving. I'm sure you can already picture how different our classrooms looked to the other eight teachers'. We would each have several projects on the go at once, our school reports were usually the last finished (but often of a higher quality), we preferred to spend time seeding and developing ideas rather than rushing through a process just for the sake of completion, paperwork bored us, and we were always the last to leave our classrooms on a Sunday afternoon.

Then, one day, someone came across a cartoon book of The Wizard of Id. Each cartoon was based on how the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types approaches solving a problem. This anonymous colleague had very thoughtfully photocopied my page (ISTP) and left it in my in-tray for all to see. The accompanying quote read: "Let's all just have a glass of wine and think about this later." I was gobsmacked. Well, I suppose if you substitute the glass of wine with a cup of coffee, I could be guilty as charged. (The cheeky colleague, to this day, remains anonymous.)

This invariably leads to the art of procrastination. I can procrastinate along with the best of them. I've been formulating this blog post for about a week now, and it has taken a visit from the Insomnia Fairy tonight to get me to write it. I also had plans to procrastinate this afternoon but have decided to leave that until tomorrow instead. ;-)

How about you? Are you a process or a product person? Do you know what your Myers-Briggs indicator is and, if so, does it represent you fairly?

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