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Both-And Thinking in Business Psychology - Introducing Vertical Development

posted Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 AM by John Oliver
I was recently asked by an experienced business psychologist if my emphasis on the value of adult vertical developmental psychology, wasn't falling into a trap of assuming a bias towards one end of the Jungian continuum of "Intuitive - Sensing" personality preferences.

This was a great opportunity to make a distinction as to how the field of adult developmental psychology is separate to and complements the field of personality preferences.

When we focus only on personality preferences (most common models include the 16 personality types from Raymond B. Cattell going back to the 1940s, the Myers Briggs Type Indicator  extrapolated by Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers from the typological theories proposed by Carl Jung), we tend to be drawn into a "either/or" mode of thinking.

When taking my case study leaders, such as Ricardo Semler, Lars Kolind, Andy Law I got a feeling that these personalities were amorphous, shifting between types - and they were very willing to live with ambiguities. A similar observation was also identified by Cameron and Quinn (Competing Values Framework) whose extensive manager profiling and peer 360 degree interviews revealed that the best leders had often self-contradictory styles.

For me, this points to people who are agile in moving between personality types and archetypes of thinking such as "Intuitive vs. Sensing". 

Controvertially(!) I posit that leaders (responsbile for complex leadership and coordinating tasks) perform better when they have such capacities. And the measure of those capacities can be measured on a vertical adult developmental scale.

Striving therefore to engage both Intuitive AND Sensing styles of thinking creates a postive stretch beyond a comfort zone of one's personality type preference.

Adult developmental psychology (in particular the neo-Piagetian branch) believes that these capacities of stretch can be supported in all adults all along their lives.