Way Beyond Myers-Briggs

By: An Anonymous Security Consultant

After 10 years as a cryptography/security consultant, I recently crossed over the line and became a "security architect" for a startup. It seemed a good idea at the time, until one day, when I saw in my inbox an "invitation" to a series of offsite management training sessions.

Oh, good: 8.5 hours locked in a room with an HR-type and an urn full of bad coffee, singing the company song, coloring inside the lines, practicing the bland, meaningless smiles. I'll just catch up with everything else on Tuesday, right?

So, inevitably, in the middle of listening to the usual noise about how to empower our subordinates (half of us in the room counted ourselves lucky not to have subordinates, but I digress), we flinched as the the HR-type whipped out the dreaded Myers-Briggs test. Yes, even though all of us had taken this personality test more than once before, in similar self-improvement death-marches, and even though we all could classify each other as ESTP or INTJ on sight, and even though we all knew, well... we had to take it again, and we had to have our long-familiar "scores" explained to us again, and we all were very upbeat about it, because after all, this was a self-improvement deathmarch, and not a deathmarch of some other variety.

During this mess, I reflected on my own seat-of-the-pants classification of personality types, honed and refined during my decade of teaching crypto-101 to brokerage sysadmins:

I mainly use two orthogonal axes to classify people. First, everyone is either an Ally, or is not an Ally. Second, everyone is either an Enemy, or not. So, we can group people (coworkers, customers, investors, etc.) into four classes, right off the bat, without any insipid HR testing:

People who are Allies; People who are Enemies; People who are both; People who are neither.

People who are both Ally and Enemy call themselves "diplomatic," but of course, they're really just Traitors, or at best just unnecessary competition. They should handled as briefly as possible, if you get my drift.

People who are neither Enemy nor Ally like to pretend that they're just bystanders, but this point of view is wasteful of these persons' great potential, which must properly be "developed." So, I further subdivide this one group into two categories:

People who can be used as Weapons; People who can be used as Hostages.

So, instead of M-B's 16 personality-types, I count five:

Allies, Enemies, Traitors, Weapons, and Hostages.

This system of personality analysis is, I submit, at once more comprehensive and more useful than the feel-good Meyers-Briggs in many realistic situations, whether you're in a design review, a maximum-security prison, or even in an all-day meeting with HR. Well, OK, that last one isn't strictly a realistic situation. But you get my drift.

Thanks for sharing.

Posted May 13, 2004

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