I recently had the opportunity to work with a major software company developing a Webinar for them around cultural differences. It raised a lot of questions for me around accurately assessing best-fit type when working in a global community, particularly when considering the temperament lens.
Temperament (which is a separate yet complementary theory to type) is defined as a pattern of needs, values, talents and behaviors that underlies our way of acting and being in the world. The four temperaments, Artisan (SP) or Improviser, Guardian (SJ) or Stabilizer, Rational (NT) or Theorist and Idealist (NF) or Catalyst have certain core needs and values. Much of this knowledge is not necessarily in consciousness – for instance needs can be unknown to us and unknown to others while values tend to be known to self and unknown to others. Temperament is inborn and constant, although our character does develop as we interact with the environment.
Culture is defined as “The ways a group of people solves problems and resolves dilemmas”. (Fons Trompenaars). It is also described as “The collective programming of the mind distinguishing the members of one group or category of people from others”.(Geert Hostede). Culture encompasses obvious elements such as dress, food, products and artifacts but it also includes basic assumptions and values. Most research will highlight that these cultural values are ingrained by the time a child is seven years old (much before conscious memory is available to us).
So in working with type, how do we differentiate temperament values from cultural values, both of which tend to be somewhat automatic to us? For instance if an individual declares a value around preservation of social groups, how can we help the individual to understand whether this is expressed from the Guardian core needs and values around belonging and contributing or whether it stems from some of the values inherent in a Collectivist versus individualist culture. (Hofstede differentiates between Collectivist cultures (Individuals are organized into strong cohesive groups) and Individualist cultures (Individuals are seen as responsible for themselves and their immediate families).
The type identification process is further complicated by the underlying preferences associated with temperaments and culture. For instance, two temperaments (Guardians and Idealists) tend to be more interdependent or collaborative (considering the team and/or specific relationships) while the other two temperaments (Artisans and Rationals) tend to be more pragmatic (do what it takes to get the job done) Again how do we distinguish the temperament’s preferences from the Collectivist tendency (where group goals take precedent over individual goals) or Individualist inclination (where individual goals take precedence over team goals). Certainly this is a subject that I will be exploring more in future blogs.