Value Orientations and MBTI Types

By Paul Barrett and Maretha Prinsloo on February 25, 2020

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Value Orientations

The Value Orientations (VO) reveals an individual’s worldviews, their assumptions about life and perceptual orientations. The VO draws – albeit not exclusively – from a body of knowledge (broadly referred to as “Spiral Dynamics”) generated by Clare Graves, refined and popularised by Don Beck and Chris Cowan, and critically discussed by various theorists (e.g. Ken Wilber).

Valuing systems act as catalysts in determining how people can be expected to apply their intellect, talents and personality. By identifying the value orientations of individuals one is likely to predict those in the workplace that are best suited to challenges such as: doing routine work in a team context; relentlessly pursuing goals under difficult circumstances; maintaining the status quo by ensuring quality and controlling risk in a reliable and structured manner; showing a customer orientation; flexibly generating new strategies, and persuasively creating value for all stakeholders; building relationships, developing others and creating harmony at work; as well as integrating and understanding the dynamics of the whole system to identity the leverage necessary to initiate change. The Spiral Dynamics (SD) model thus offers practical utility within the context of talent management.

Graves simplified the model by allocating different colours to each of the valuing systems of the SD model, in terms of which the behaviour of individuals, organizations, nations or any other socio-cultural group can be understood.

The various valuing systems involved, otherwise referred to as worldviews, organizing frameworks, belief structures, mindsets, perceptual filters, memes or decision-making frames, represent a continuously unfolding spectrum of consciousness and awareness. Each increasingly inclusive, consecutive sub-system or value orientation, integrates and transcends previous valuing systems. The entire spectrum involves a soft and dynamic hierarchy, also referred to as a holon. The seven levels depicted by the SD model below are organized around eight broad themes.

Below is a rather cryptic description of each of the seven valuing systems that forms part of the SD model of consciousness development (the spiral starts with the Beige valuing system which is usually associated with harsh life conditions where the challenge is to physically survive from day to day (the VO assessment does not measure this level as the VO is aimed at working populations who do not have to cope with these challenges).



The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is an indicator of personality preferences in terms of four dichotomies. Individuals tend to use both sides of each pair; however, one is generally a natural preference. These are as follows:

From Wikipedia:

“Jung’s typological model regards psychological type as similar to left or right handedness: people are either born with, or develop, certain preferred ways of perceiving and deciding. The MBTI sorts some of these psychological differences into four opposite pairs, or “dichotomies”, with a resulting 16 possible psychological types. None of these types is “better” or “worse”; however, Briggs and Myers theorized that people innately “prefer” one overall combination of type differences. In the same way that writing with the left hand is difficult for a right-hander, so people tend to find using their opposite psychological preferences more difficult, though they can become more proficient (and therefore behaviorally flexible) with practice and development.

The 16 types are typically referred to by an abbreviation of four letters — the initial letters of each of their four type preferences (except in the case of intuition, which uses the abbreviation “N” to distinguish it from introversion). For instance:

  • ESTJ: extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J)
  • INFP: introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P)

These abbreviations are applied to all 16 types.


Accepted Value Orientations associated with MBTI types

The orientations which respondents indicate as being a positive expression of their world view/outlook are referred to as “Accepted Orientations”. Within the VO report, up to three of these values are reported upon for any individual.

The data from which the graph below was constructed is a sample of 441 heterogeneous-nationality incumbent employees who completed both the VO and MBTI; 388 internationals working for a large international corporate, and 53 South Africans working within South Africa for two smaller organizations. The incumbent job-roles span across senior management and C-suite executive roles, within industrial-production, infrastructure and security job-sectors. All the employees are graduates, including many with postgraduate qualifications. Not all employees completed all the assessments.

When considering specific clusters within the MBTI assessment in relationship to VO perceptual framework acceptance, it can be inferred that NT combination is mostly associated with Orange and Red value orientations. Additionally, it is also associated with the Yellow framework. This is likely due to the independent, realistic, technical but conceptual approach to ideas, information and people. The ST combination seems to be mostly associated with Blue value orientation suggesting a focus on tangible, practical and ordered information. NF profile seems to be in closer relationship to the collectivistic value orientations – Green and Purple – indicating their warm, somewhat relativistic and accommodating orientation.

Empirically, in order to show the frequencies of cases with particular value orientations who were assigned particular MBTI types, we use an alluvial plot format. This enables the visualisation of structural changes (here frequencies of cases) which can be viewed between two or more categorical or ordered-class attributes/variables. Although used more in network and time-flow applications, alluvial plot analytics are also useful for the kind of data available to us here.

What we see above is the ‘flow’ or pattern of frequencies of cases who prefer a particular value orientation, associated with their assigned MBTI type. The width of the path between an orientation and a particular MBTI type represents a higher frequency of cases in that pathway.

Looking at the figure above, we see that for this particular sample of educated business executives:

ENTP is most closely associated with Orange value orientation. Individuals who accept Orange orientation and present ENTP profiles tend to show high levels of energy in terms of seeking out new possibilities and challenges. Creation of ideas and generation of new solutions to difficult problems are likely to be stimulating to them. Perceptions are important to them hence they are likely to be perceptive of other people’s attitudes and even use these perceptions to get buy-ins from others.

ENTJ is associated with both Orange and Red value orientations. Individuals with such a combination are likely to show high levels of drive and energy for complex problems and achievement of goals and results. They may appear impatient when it comes to other people’s complacency and could come to decisions prematurely, without sufficient consideration of detail.

INTJ and ESTP are mostly associated with Red value orientation, with possible elements of the Orange value orientation. Individuals with such a combination of results can appear single-minded in terms of their attention to goals. They could appear action-oriented, realistic, critical and have high expectations of performance.

The essence of the relationship between ESTJ, ISTJ profiles and Blue value orientations seems to be a pragmatic, reliable and dutiful approach. These individuals tend to value procedures in place and will most likely appear thorough, hard-working and practical when dealing with problems or people.

The INTP profile is mostly associated with the Yellow value orientation. Individuals presenting with such a profile tend to be intrinsically interested in theoretical and intellectual problems. At times they may appear withdrawn or quiet, however, they present intellectual curiosity and are likely to become energetic when dealing with a topic which interests them.

ENFP profile seems to be associated with the Green value orientation. Such a combination is marked by relativism as individuals tend to see different perspectives and at times find it hard to decide on one point. They show concern for people and a  desire to understand and accommodate others.


In Conclusion

As shown above, the assessment of an individual’s value orientations, their worldviews and their assumptions about life and perceptual orientations adds a substantive and complementary perspective to the conversations which ensue when elaborating upon the contextual implications of a person’s MBTI type. It’s an interesting and perhaps thought-provoking finding.

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