When Innovation Gets Stifled: An MBTI-Based Approach to Bringing Big Ideas to Change-Averse Companies

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You’re starting an exciting new job, and you’ve been hired to bring a new perspective to your new employer.

During the interview stage, everyone seemed excited about how your ideas differed from the company’s standard way of operating. You can’t wait to get started so you can make big, transformative changes to prove your worth and take this company to a new level.

Fast forward to a week or so into your new job. In your first few meetings, your colleagues looked at you like you were from another planet. Whenever you propose new approaches, you are told “That’s not how we do things around here”or “We already tried that and it didn’t work.” You’re starting to doubt this was the right choice. Your manager is thinking the same.

I see this sort of situation all the time. Companies typically hire people who will fit in, meaning people who mostly look and act alike. When they realize such homogeneity closes them off from new ways to solve problems and bring in revenue, they look for people who are different to change things up. A company will tout its need for difference during the recruiting process and may even go as far as to hire the most different person it can find. But when the person starts working and the reality of change sets in, the company pushes back against the very thing it claimed to seek.

Understanding Why Your New Organization Resists Your Thinking

This scenario leaves both the new hire and the company that hired them frustrated and, in some cases, worse off than they were before the hire was made. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. An approach based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality types can help people who are hired for their innovative ideas assimilate into environments that might want change but are resistant to it.

To start, it’s important to understand that most organizations run on certain principles. They take in information in a preferred way, they make decisions in a preferred way, and they organize all of that in a preferred way. These principles are:

  1. Sensing: taking in information based on facts, details, evidence, and practicalities
  2. Thinking: making decisions based on objective, task-focused logic
  3. Judging: organizing the work environment based on a plan, sticking to that plan, and meeting goals

However, it is often the case that the new hire with the innovative ideas does not share all these preferences. For instance, let’s suppose you are a new employee who has the opposite preferences:

  1. Intuition (vs. Sensing): taking in information based on “what if” possibilities, the big picture, and hunches
  2. Feeling (vs. Thinking): making decisions based on subjective, people-focused values and harmony
  3. Perceiving (vs. Judging): organizing the work environment based on keeping things open-ended and flexible
For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

Using MBTI Type to Bring Innovative Thinking Into the Fold

As you can imagine, the transition might be difficult for an NFP (intuition, feeling, perceiving) person entering an STJ (sensing, thinking, judging) company, and initial feedback might not be as positive as you’d like — perhaps not positive at all. At this point, you might be tempted to either fall in line with status-quo thinking or start looking for a new position.

How can you stay encouraged enough to press forward with your new way of looking at things? How can you help your colleagues with STJ preferences get you instead of wanting to do away with you? Here are a couple of tips to consider for those with NFP preferences:

  1. Stay focused and detailed. When presenting your big-picture ideas, back them up with specific details based on real evidence. Start with bullet points instead of going off on tangents and possibilities. Stay focused and sequential in presenting your ideas.
  2. Point to the logic. When making decisions about the ideas you have, provide logical reasons for why these are good decisions. Simply stating “People will love this” is not enough of a logical reason for others to buy in.

This approach requires a good deal of “flexing” beyond what comes naturally for people with NFP preferences. Personality-type flexing — a highly important and valuable characteristic in and of itself — is about honoring first and foremost your own preferences, and then flexing to the opposite side when the situation calls for it.

One way to improve your facility with personality-type flexing is to seek out people who have those opposite preferences and ask them for advice. Good type development involves appreciating what each of us brings to any situation. Learning and appreciating the differences in others can help us get to that place.

Michael Segovia is the lead trainer for The Myers-Briggs Company’s MBTI Certification Programs. He recently presented a TED talk reflecting on how type theory has informed his understanding of his own life story.

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Michael Segovia is the lead trainer for The Myers-Briggs Company's MBTI certification programs. In his quarter-century career at The Myers-Briggs Company, Segovia has conducted hundreds of certification courses in the MBTI. He speaks and writes regularly on the subjects of personality type, leadership, and development. He recently presented a TED talk reflecting on how type theory has informed his understanding of his own life’s story.