Outed…as an ENFP

What’s new in Climate, Etc.? Judith Curry’s latest post considers recent research by Weiler, Keller and Olex, published in the journal Climatic Change, to the effect that Ph.D. climate researchers and the general public show personality differences on average…and that these differences hold implications for communication between the two groups.

A great study…and the comment stream on Judith’s blog, which is always interesting, is especially so this time around. The dialog covers a lot of ground…and more is undoubtedly being added as I write this, but so far (122 comments and counting when I started) it seems a couple of additional points remain to be made.

First and foremost, the implications for communication are really only part of the story, aren’t they? Suppose instead we considered instead the implications for problem solving. And when it comes to climate variability and change, the big issue is not just the scientific realities, or discourse on these. Rather the challenge is what climate change portends for energy policy, for feeding seven billion people, for ensuring an ample water resource, for protecting against hazardous weather extremes, and much more.

No shortage of problems there! And when it comes to difficult, seemingly intractable problems – wicked problems – the greater the range of perspectives and approaches to problem-solving we can bring to bear the happier we’re likely to be. Communication is essential here, but the fuller mindset is equally so. Intuition, and a focus on the real and tangible are both likely to be important. Logical reasoning and values and the impacts on others might also balance each other in important ways. And we’re likely to need both the folks who can come to closure and the others who continue to noodle along and process more information.

And these broad categories are in fact more nuanced, aren’t they? Take the distinction between introverts and extroverts. Seems simple, right? In some versions of the test, you find questions of two major types.

First type: You come home from work late at night. Suddenly you remember you’d been invited to a party. You (a) feel energized, (b) feel tired.

Second type: A problem comes up at the office. You (a) retreat to your cubicle to work it out, (b) stroll down the hallway, stopping by each person and each  desk to say, “My, it looks as if we have a problem here. What do you suggest we do?” Some of us check (b) most versions of the first question, making us out to be introverts, and (b) to the second, revealing an extroverted side. The E-I distinction hinges in part on this. And so on with the other dimensions of the test.

I tend to come out moderately on the extrovert side. When it comes to problem-solving at work, I know that retreating to my office will be a dry hole. To get any kind of workable solution, I’ve got to ask my co-workers! But socially? I think the ideal group is 2-3. [In such a setting, you can really get to know someone.]My wife thinks about ten times that number is just beginning to be a good group. She’s gotten me out of my shell over thirty-some years – hence my E.

My wife’s full score? ESTJ (but let the record show she’s not a big fan of this or any test that purports to cubbyhole people). I’m an E (moderate)NFP(strong on the latter three). We agree on most things. But there’s some stuff where we initially don’t see eye-to-eye. And you know what? The only big mistakes we’ve made in our lives together have been decisions where we agreed from the get-go.

We had the same blind spot.

So those differences? They’re not a weakness to be eliminated…or even compensated for. They’re a strength to build on. And the truth is, we’re not likely to make much progress as a society on the climate change issue, or any other big issue, until we fully embrace that. Diversity is not just some nice-to-have social goal – it’s a sine qua non to our continued survival on this planet.

Fail to bring both genders to the table, or underrepresented groups, or all generations, and we do so at our own peril. Draw too much of a distinction between those who make science a profession, and those who use different kinds of logic in their work and lives, and we risk creating yet another “we-they” divide in our society.

Back to that ENFP profile. You might think this revealing. You might say that’s why I like the Darwin quote on the masthead of this blog. You might think it has bearing on why I have always liked science, but have liked the management/leadership of science more, and why science policy holds such fascination for me.

You might be right.

But in closing, a tip of the hat to the INTJ who runs Climate, Etc.

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4 Responses to Outed…as an ENFP

  1. huxley says:

    William H: You’re an interesting guy with an interesting blog. I looked you up a couple of Climate Etc. posts ago. We probably disagree about a fair number of things, but you strike me as the sort of person that I could disagree with and enjoy the conversation.

    I wish you well.

  2. William Hooke says:

    Thank you! And I’ve seen and enjoyed your comments on Climate Etc. as well. As for the disagreements…probably means we don’t have the same blind spots, which is a good thing. Keep on using these and other points of disagreement as a platform for launching better/improved ideas.

    all the best…

  3. Amanda says:

    Your daughter’s an ENFP too! We DO often agree, don’t we? I like what you said about blind spots, but I wonder too if the same personality types together can take quicker action to make decisions and follow through. That’s not always the ideal, I agree, but it is a strength of those teams. I see this in my field too.

    • William Hooke says:

      Great points, Amanda. And we certainly need quicker movement from decisions to action and followthrough. Thanks for making the real world a better place. Dad

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