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Applying type theory
in critical problem solving with teams

The purpose of this guide is to show how team members might apply type theory to enhance their team problem solving processes. It is not an exhaustive examination of either type theory or team dynamics. Instead, it is an attempt to point out how the eight cognitive processes or functions-in-attitudes identified by Carl Jung contribute to problem solving.

Jung identified eight cognitive processes, or functions-in-attitudes. Four of these processes have a perceiving or information gathering attitude to them; they are: Extroverted Sensing, Introverted Sensing, Extroverted iNtuition, and Introverted iNtuition. The other functions have a judging or evaluating attitude to them; they are: Extroverted Thinking, Introverted Thinking, Extroverted Feeling, and Introverted Feeling.

When individuals are using a particular process, they tend to exhibit characteristics specific to that process. The characteristics associated with the extroverted processes are much more easily discernible than those associated with the introverted processes because the extroverted processes are focused outward toward the surrounding world while the introverted processes are focused inwardly toward the self. These characteristics are:

Extroverted Sensing
Connects one to the physical aspects of life. Values the Sensed object for itself rather than as a subjective impression or symbol. Tends to be aware of the immediate environment. Desires to stay in the present, focusing on the short-range impact. Tends to notice the detailed features and textures of things. Desires to respond to what is being perceived "now." Introverted Sensing
  • Looks for the reality behind the surface.
  • Relies on inner reality or recollection of previous experiences.
  • Takes in the smallest shades and details.
  • Tends to be very concentrated and in focus.
  • Needs to internalize the object to know what it is.
  • Is guided by the reality of the subjective sensation.
Extroverted Intuition
  • Identifies connections on the spot.
  • Finds patterns in apparently unconnected information.
  • Generates ideas from what exists.
  • Senses what is going on behind the scenes.
  • Connects with what is between the obvious.
  • Searches for emerging or new possibilities.
Introverted Intuition
  • Enjoys allowing the mind to explore.
  • Tends to leap from image to image.
  • Makes uncommon, meaningful connections among odd, disjointed thoughts.
  • May identify unusual and deep possibilities.
  • May view facts or details as superficial.
  • Tends to see the whole or universal image.
Extroverted Thinking
  • Tends to be driven by a need for logic.
  • Desires intellectual conclusions.
  • Reflects on external things.
  • May appear more comfortable when in control.
  • Tends to work from a base of priorities and sequences.
  • Communicates order based on rationale.
Introverted Thinking
  • Tends to be focused on the clarification of ideas or mental processes.
  • Often operates from a position of inner conviction.
  • Needs logical explanation for patterns and schemes.
  • Often is concerned with having consistent interpretation of words.
  • Tends to fit theories into frameworks, creating models from which to operate.
  • Is typically concerned with explaining and justifying.
Extroverted Feeling
  • Often provides the connection between people.
  • Focuses on the human factors in decision-making.
  • Allows for the sacrifice of self for harmony in the group.
  • Tends to know what/how other people feel.
  • Focuses on establishing genuine rapport.
  • Usually knows what is socially correct behavior.
Introverted Feeling
  • Tends to focus on what is important to self.
  • Appears to work from a Sense of universal values.
  • Often finds it difficult to share feelings.
  • Tends to evaluate using personal likes and dislikes.
  • Often appears driven by invisible motives.
  • Usually arrives at decisions that are in harmony with personal values.

Every individual has the potential to use all eight of the cognitive processes, but observations indicate team members tend to devote more time and energy to their own preferred processes.

Problem Solving
The problem-solving model used for this analysis contains the following six steps:

  1. Recognize and define the problem.
  2. Develop decision criteria.
  3. Develop possible alternatives.
  4. Evaluate possible alternatives.
  5. Select the best alternative.
  6. Implement the solution.

While each person will approach every step differently, those who share the same type development pattern will share some things in common. The eight cognitive processes provide a means of identifying some of these commonalties. Examining what each cognitive process contributes at each step also allows one to identify what one might accidentally omit.

Recognizing and defining the problem requires being notified that a problem exists or recognizing that the present state is different from the desired state. Either way, once the possibility of a problem is recognized, an understanding of the problem must be gained to determine the exact bounds and the desired end state. This process requires gathering information related to the problem and results in a restated or clarified problem statement.

  • Extroverted Sensing might identify what needs to be done immediately to get things started or stop what is not working.
  • Introverted Sensing will probably compare the current situation to past situations and recall what led to the problem being identified.
  • Extroverted iNtuition might focus on identifying all potential contributing factors, including possible contributing factors not identified by others.
  • Introverted iNtuition often reveals implications from the available data, expanding the scope of the problem to its fullest limits.
  • Extroverted Thinking will probably attempt to apply a logical process to determine the problem.
  • Introverted Thinking might want to ensure that a systems approach to defining the problem is taken.
  • Extroverted Feeling will probably check to ascertain how comfortable team members are with the process being used.
  • Introverted Feeling will probably define the problem in terms of the corporate culture or the values of the organization.

Once a clarified problem statement has been developed, it should be presented to the decision maker(s) for approval before proceeding with the problem solving process. Getting the decision maker's concurrence on the redefined problem ensures that the problem statement was effectively communicated and that time will not be wasted solving the wrong problem.

The next two steps of "developing decision criteria" and "developing possible alternatives" may be interchanged. Team members who prefer to relate to the environment through their Judging process would probably be more comfortable with a structured procedure that develops decision criteria first because doing so will make it easier to focus on organizational goals and vision. Team members preferring to relate to the environment through their Perceiving process will probably not be concerned with which is accomplished first. Regardless of which is accomplished first, the second should not be influenced by the first.

When developing decision criteria, two kinds of criteria, screening and evaluative, should be developed and defined. Screening criteria identify the conditions that must be met by the selected solution. They require either a "yes" or "no" answer. If an alternative does not pass the screening criteria, it is no longer considered. Evaluative criteria are those things important in selecting the best alternative from those alternatives that passed the screening criteria. Each evaluative criterion must be defined in specific terms so that there is no confusion when using it to evaluate the alternatives. While each evaluative criterion is important, they are probably not of equal importance, so each criterion should be assigned a relative weight. In assigning weights, one must not just assign values but must base the weights on logic.

In developing decision criteria, team members using extroverted processes are likely to be more comfortable using brainstorming while those using introverted processes would probably be more comfortable using the nominal group technique or the Delphi technique.

  • Extroverted and Introverted Sensing would probably identify practical, realistic criteria.
  • Extroverted and Introverted iNtuition would tend to identify criteria that are more abstract, global and futuristic.
  • Extroverted Thinking would probably desire criteria that allow for defendable logic for the weighting and application of the criteria.
  • Introverted Thinking might want the criteria to connect in a systematic way and to be applied equally to all considered alternatives.
  • Extroverted Feeling might want to ensure that applying the objective logic would not divide the team, and that the values of the members are reflected in the criteria.
  • Introverted Feeling would probably ensure that all criteria are consistent with the cultural values of the team.

Members using the extroverted judging processes would probably compromise quicker on the wording of definitions and on the weights assigned to each criterion than would those using the introverted judging processes.

When developing possible alternatives, all possibilities that the team can generate should be included. However, each alternative should be substantially different from the other alternatives. During the development of alternatives, each of the eight processes would exhibit certain actions.

  • Extroverted Sensing would have a tendency to identify practical solutions that provide immediate results.
  • Introverted Sensing would probably seek to include previously used solutions or variations of those solutions.
  • Extroverted and Introverted iNtuition would be more likely to generate new and different possible solutions.
  • Extroverted and Introverted Thinking would have a tendency to overlook or devalue alternatives that address the impact of the alternatives on people.
  • Extroverted and Introverted Feeling might focus too much on the human dimension of the problem.

Evaluating possible alternatives requires the gathering of information about the alternatives relative to the criteria and evaluating each alternative in terms of the criteria, followed by a comparison of each alternative against the other alternatives in terms of the criteria.

In doing this evaluation, it is important to hold to the criteria as the focus for the evaluation. This ensures that a valid comparison can be made and narrows the field from which relevant information must be gathered.

Members using extroverted processes usually prefer to gather this information through interviews, while members using introverted processes often prefer researching documents.

  • Extroverted and Introverted Sensing would probably prefer specific, concrete data to use in evaluating the alternatives.
  • Extroverted and Introverted iNtuition would likely accept generalities, assumptions and hunches.
  • Extroverted Thinking would tend to prefer an objective method of testing the alternatives.
  • Introverted Thinking would probably want to ensure that complete tests are conducted.
  • Extroverted Feeling would probably want to ensure that all members feel good about how the evaluation is being conducted.
  • Introverted Feeling would be concerned that the organization's values are not short changed.

Selecting the best alternative requires looking at the evaluation results and deciding which of the alternatives to accept. The primary processes involved in selecting the best solution or alternative are the Judging processes.

  • Extroverted and Introverted Thinking will lead to the alternative identified as the best during the objective analysis and comparison of the alternatives.
  • Extroverted and Introverted Feeling will evaluate the objective selection based on how the team is reacting to the selection and if it 'feels' right to one's internal value system.

Implementing the solution is taking the selected solution to its conclusion. Implied in implementation is the time necessary to accomplish all of the required tasks.

Members using extroverted processes tend to be more comfortable interacting with other people while members using introverted processes tend to be more comfortably engaged in individual activities.

  • Extroverted and Introverted Sensing will probably prefer doing short duration, repetitive, physical tasks.
  • Extroverted and Introverted iNtuition will probably prefer dealing with multiple, unconnected, abstract tasks.
  • Extroverted or Introverted Thinking tends to be more appropriate when performing non-personal tasks.
  • Extroverted and Introverted Feeling tends to be more appropriate when performing personal tasks.

These cognitive processes that were just considered from a problem solving perspective do not work in isolation within a person; therefore, the above analysis must be transferred from general comments to specific team members working in a group setting if maximum understanding and application is to be obtained.

Knowing each team member's preferences and applying that knowledge to manage conflict, reduce blind spots and avoid groupthink greatly enhances team problem solving. How many times have you seen - and probably been part of - groups of intelligent, friendly, well-meaning people who degenerated into a mass of frustration and arrived at a solution with which almost no one was comfortable when they tried to solve a problem as a group? Often this was because their cognitive preferences were causing conflict. While these preferences cannot be changed, understanding the differences present within the group and valuing these differences can become a strength for the group rather than allowing them to be impediments. Respecting the gifts of each cognitive process will move teams ahead in their efforts to manage their interpersonal conflicts. Including all of the cognitive processes in the problem solving process will increase the probability for considering all key factors essential to quality problem solving by competent teams.