Now, depending upon your level of interest in Pop Idol, cricket or psychology you might have been drawn to an article published this week in various papers that English cricket has gone all-Jung-Meyers-Briggs-psychology-fied.

The article in The Times newspaper reports the following:

Carl Jung’s theories of personality types underpin a system widely used in the corporate world and adopted by the ECB to help 11 wildly different individuals to coalesce into a team.
Developed from Jung’s work in the early 1960s by Isabel Briggs Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a rough guide to a person’s personality traits and how they interact with others. The daunting task of fitting the likes of Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Ian Bell into a coherent unit and helping each player to play to the best of their ability has been smoothed by these simple tests.

To be honest I’m not a great fan of profiling. I have regularly tweeted a wonderful quote by the American artist, Andy Warhol, who said:

Labels are for tins.

The issue I have with profiling is this. Having labelled someone’s personality as dominant, introverted, intuition means what exactly? What difference is that actually going to make? Presumably, KP and Broad won’t share a room while touring ‘Down Under’ this winter to avoid disharmony and enviable fall-out, as their powerful egos clash!

Perhaps, but perhaps not either. Correlation doesn’t mean causation. In layman’s terms: Just because… Just because two giants of the game in terms of personality and talent are in the same team doesn’t mean they will need careful managing to avoid fall-out and disharmony with each other and anyone else. If you support the determinist/behaviourist theories of ‘it’s your genes’ then there’s no hope for changing your mind. But I don’t. I believe that we can change our mind. More on that later.

Further, just because there is disharmony, doesn’t mean that two of the stars of English cricket were the instigators. Disharmony can manifest itself for many complex reasons, probably with a great deal of overlap with other events. Assuming ‘Just because’ thinking will get you nowhere constructive very quickly. It will result in a great many ‘jumping to conclusions’ for which there is questionable evidence. Finally, a team focusing on the goal: winning can ultimately bring about harmony. We like to stay the same. Ask any sports team what they most like about their chosen sport and it may well be ‘Winning!’ that is their answer. A winning team wants to keep winning and disharmony has a nasty habit of culling victory. For ‘The sake of the team’ and ‘To keep winning’, people will put jeopardising egos aside. It doesn’t take a personality test to set up that point – just common sense.

The Australian Team are in disarray at the moment. There have been some very silly behaviours but that is all. Australia are suffering from something very rare in Australian sport: the team isn’t very good and, worse, Australian attitude and ‘never say die’ is AWOL. Is personality at fault here? I don’t think so.

You see, it’s not about personality at all. It’s about character. Building character in terms of determination. Applying wilful attention to bring efficacy in the brain (in other words, you can rewire your brain to think and therefore behave differently: positively. It requires the self-belief and determination that you can).

Carl Jung wrote famously about the collective unconscious. My take on this is that a team full of positive character traits will adopt a collective that unconsciously performs at the top of its game. It doesn’t have to think how to positively behave when the pressure’s on. It just behaves positively, every one of them, naturally performing to a high level whatever the circumstance, whatever the pressure.   

The England Cricket Board has used Carl Jung’s thinking, upon which the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) profiling is based, to identify personality traits and has used these traits to mould a team where the desired mix of personality styles exist. I not only believe that personality styles are ‘labels’, as Warhol stated, but also as ‘boxed in’ outcomes. ‘Boxed in’ says that I am this; I’m not that. ‘Boxing in’ limits my flexibility to meet people ‘where they are’, for I am ‘boxed in’ here at ESTJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment) and you are ‘boxed in’ there at INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment). ‘Never the twain shall meet’ for we are on opposite sides of the grid. For me, it’s a ‘Can’t do’ view and not a ‘Can do’ view.

Simply put, labels label us. And labels, limit us. I intend to stay label-free. After all, it’s not what I do, or indeed the personality I show, that matters but who I am. Personality is no clear indicator of performance. Nor is it a conclusive indicator how well, or not, I will ‘get on’ in a team. Remember, there’s no ‘I’ in team. There’s no ‘I’ in character either. There is ‘I’ in MBTI.

At the moment there’s plenty of self-belief in the England Cricket Team and they are winning, if not necessarily ‘firing on all cylinders’. Success will return to the Australian team – when they put their mind to it. For that, they need to read the brilliant Victorian psychologist, William James’s Principles of Psychology. Nothing there about personality type. Plenty there about habit, attention and will. To the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board) I say this: Forget MBTI profiling and attend to William James’s habit, attention and will if you want to keep winning. So, not so much ‘Will Jung’ but ‘Will(iam) James win it for England?’

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