Most people give me a puzzled look when I tell them I’m a Birkman Consultant. I usually immediately follow that up with “It’s like Myers-Briggs on steriods.” It’s like the MBTI’s bigger, scientifically-backed older brother. If you’re not that familiar with the MBTI either, it’s the one about Extroverts vs. Introverts. People describe themselves with four letters, “I’m an ENFJ” or “ISTP.” Here are just a few differences between the Birkman and Myers-Briggs:
MBTI measures only four scales: Extrovert/Introvert, Intuitive/Sensing, Feeling/Thinking, and Judging/Perceiving. This only gives you 16 personality types total. These scales are binary or either/or choices. The Birkman measures nine different behaviors and four perspectives or attitudes on a continuum so that you can understand the differences between highly intense, strong and moderate displays of the behavior.
Bottom line: The MBTI is less nuanced while the Birkman provides deeper insights because it acknowledges greater human complexity.
Self vs. Others
The Myers Briggs asks only for your own self-perceptions. This can help them describe your usual behavior but not much more. The Birkman on the other hand, asks you questions about yourself and about other people. This way Birkman is able to assess your usual style and what you expect from your environment. Our typical behavior can be substantially different than what we need from other people so this kind of information really helps people understand how to communicate and work together more effectively. In other words, it’s information you can actually apply!
Bottom line: The MBTI measures your usual style but the Birkman measures your usual style, your needs and your stress behaviors – information that is much more useful!
Validity & Reliability
The Myers-Briggs has poor reliability and validity. Up to 75% of people get a different type the second time they take it. And it turns out that only the Extrovert/Introvert measurement has much validity. A researcher at The Birkman on the other hand, has 60 years of testing and retesting to make sure their results are both reliable and valid. Most people don’t see their report scores change much over time.
Bottom line: The MBTI is a great conversation starter but the Birkman beats it on scientific credentials.
If you want even more details how how they differ, Birkman International has a whole white paper on the topic that you can download here!
Conclusion: Myers-Briggs vs. The Birkman
Imagine you were given a beautiful potted plant. People seem to love Myers-Briggs because it’s easy and quick. It’s like getting a nice little label with the name of your plant. Unfortunately, most people aren’t really quick easy reads. While knowing the name of the plant is nice, it doesn’t help you take care of it. The Birkman is a much more comprehensive look at humans. It allows us to resist labeling and move toward really understanding. It’s like getting that plant label AND getting a whole bunch of useful tips about what kind of light and temperature and nutrients it needs. Your Birkman reports can help you in any situation where you have to deal with people who are really different than you (wait, isn’t that EVERY situation?!) allowing both you and others to flourish.