I’ve taken my fair share of personality tests (Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder, Insights Discovery). The Enneagram is my favorite for a number of reasons:
- It focuses on motivations and values as opposed to more intrinsic qualities like extraversion or introversion
- There are clear implications for how teams can communicate and work better together
- It’s easy to identify areas for personal growth
- The nine archetypes are a distinct yet manageable number to keep track of, as opposed to remembering 16 four-letter combinations or 34 individual strengths
You can pay for the full-length test or take a free, abridged version, but I’ve found a simpler self-typing exercise to be just as accurate. Many people who go the self-typing route identify with more than one archetype, and the process of reconciling to one primary type is an enlightening exercise in itself.
I love walking into someone’s office at Microsoft for the first time and looking for these guys:
These modest lego blocks can help you understand someone’s communication preferences, motivations, and decision-making style, all before the other person even opens their mouth.
The idea, likely familiar to anyone who’s taken an intro psych class or read up a bit on Carl Jung, is that people’s personality traits can be broadly broken out into four groups. The labels vary, but the Insights Discovery tool used at Microsoft classifies by “color energy” (excuse the slightly cheesy descriptors):
You can visualize the four colors plotted along two dimensions: attitude and function. Attitude is how you react to external and internal experiences (introversion vs. extraversion), while function describes how you prefer to make decisions (more thinking or more feeling). Red generally corresponds to an extraverted thinker, green to an introverted feeler, blue to an introverted thinker, and yellow to an extraverted feeler.
Everyone exhibits all four colors to a certain extent, but we tend to align with a dominant and secondary hue. For a small (and enviable) subset of the population, this combination consists of opposing color energies, i.e. green & red or blue & yellow. Hello, creative tension.
As with any simplistic framework, you can’t take it as gospel. But for the amount of time invested (~30 minutes), the assessment is surprisingly insightful. Beyond the self-awareness, what’s been most interesting is learning how to appeal to the underlying motivations of each color type. When working with people who have a lot of red energy, for example, you’ll meet with more success if you stay grounded in the concrete, give them space to operate, and focus on outcomes. This kind of adaptation obviously doesn’t happen overnight but it’s a worthwhile long-term goal.