Type Truly Transcends Culture

Screenshot from Betsy Kendall's presentation

Screenshot from Betsy Kendall's presentation

The European Center for the distribution of MBTI® OPP Ltd has recently partnered with Philippe Rosinski of Coaching across Cultures fame to research the connection between Type and culture.

An invitation went out to all recently-certified MBTI® practitioners in the US, the UK, Australia, India, Asia-Pacific, and many other countries to fill out the Cultural Orientations Framework. Over 900 responses later, a lot of the data still has to be examined, but Betsy Kendall presented some of the findings so far.

Grain of salt upfront, the sample may not representative of the national culture; more likely it represents the distribution in the group of those people drawn to become Type practitioners.

Betsy presented some results for the four countries that had the most respondents. The countries and their most-reported Types are:

US: n=300 – 14.3 % ENFP

UK: n=109 – 13.8 % ENFP

Australia: n=129 – 19.4 % ENFP

India: n=172 – 13.4 % ISTJ

The whole sample n=918, and there is a statistical over-representation (i.e. more in the sample than you would expect) of INFJ, ENFP, INTJ and ENTJ.

If you’re a Type practitioner, you may not be surprised by the following. Interculturalists, hang on to your hats. If you know the results of Trompenaars’ and Hofstede’s research, these are astonishing:

USA scored higher on the Being dimension than India, and India scored higher on Competition than USA.

The Being vs Doing dimension is often cited as an obvious differentiator between the East and the West. Traditionally, Western countries were more associated with valuing achievement, getting things done, and being pro-active – working to control their environments (Doing). On the contrary, Eastern cultures were traditionally more associated with words like flow, fate, luck, and Karma, placing the locus of control more to the outside of the individual (Being).

Competition vs Collaboration is also something we had traditionally more associated with the West and East respectively. Perhaps this is where the ENFP predominance in the US sample and the ISTJ in India comes to play? The interaction style of an ENFP is Get-Things-Going, a hallmark of which is having everyone involved and motivated. 

India scored higher on the Future-Oriented dimension.

From intercultural research we would normally expect “old” countries, i.e. those steeped with history, traditions, and long-established customs to have more of an orientation towards the past and keeping those traditions alive. A country like the USA, which literally just celebrated its 238th birthday only, there isn’t that much history to look back on. Consequently, it makes sense for US Americans to be more present or future-oriented. A hypothesis for Indian nationals reporting higher on the future-orientation may be that they interpret it as a long-term orientation. In the States, as many of us are familiar, the future may just last through the next quarterly results statement.

India scored higher on Universalism than the USA.

Universalist cultures apply rules equally to everyone, whereas Particularist cultures believe making case-by-case exceptions is fairer. Previous cultural research suggested that the USA would be more prone to have rules and see them through. Another example of how we would the Stabilizer (SJ) and Catalyst (NF) temperaments would expect to respond, not what previous cultural research seemed to suggest.

USA scored higher on the Affective dimension.

I had to go back to Trompenaars’ book to have a look, and it seems this one is actually in line with previous culture findings.

The Affective vs Neutral dimension looks at how comfortable nationals are displaying emotion publicly. Take your greeting protocol for example. In Germany and the USA, a handshake is common. Both parties will maintain at least a foot or two of personal space at all times. In many other European countries, greetings include quick pecks on the cheek, or more precisely, pecks on the air near the cheeks. India is a diverse country with many different customs, and I’m mostly aware of the hands-to-heart Namaste bow. Throughout the continuing conversation, or even on public transport systems, however, personal space is much smaller.

Trompenaars’ found that 51 % of Indian respondents would not openly show emotion at work, compared to only 43 % of US Americans. “Affective” doesn’t mean “affectionate”, so displays of emotion include anger or annoyance.

What does this mean?

Type transcends culture in that its concepts travel well, and people across the globe, once exposed to it, find it at least useful, if not meaningful.

First findings also suggest that people of a certain Type preference, e.g. ENFP, are likely to find they have a lot more in common with another ENFP from a different culture, than a fellow countryman who has a different preference.

I thought Betsy’s whole presentation was terrific and can’t wait to learn more about their findings. I admit, I thought differences within Type through cultural expression would show up more markedly, and still maintain that a combination of both concepts provides a more holistic picture.

Either way, I am supported and encouraged to see that Type is obviously a key aspect to helping expats adapt in different cultures, particularly for executives who need to establish effective one-on-one relationships.

The data is currently being analyzed in more detail, because as you may be aware, Rosinski’s COF not only looks at orientation of where you fall in between Universalism or Particularism, for example, but also how you rate your ability to use either side. So – more (hopefully) soon.