|Thanksgiving Potluck @ 500|
Some of our new friends at 500 Startups have never had the privilege of stuffing their faces with turkey, have never felt the honor of loosening their belt a notch after the seventh serving of pumpkin pie. It inspired me to write about why diversity is important, and how an off-the-cuff personality test can tell you if you’re more like Oprah or Bill Gates.
Stop taking diversity for granted
I do this constantly. I grew up in Los Angeles, which has the largest population of Thai, Taiwanese, Armenians, and Koreans outside their home countries. I could essentially drive to any region of the world in 30 minutes or less. I could dine with my hands on an Ethiopian feast or pluck away with chopsticks at Chinese dim sum. Diversity was a given.
At 500 Startups, our international startup bootcamp, diversity is also a given. 32 companies represent 14 countries and 7 companies with at least one woman co-founder. And 500 is on the forefront of tackling every emerging market in the world. They are literally marrying companies into the 500 family from all over — reports of India and Mexico are next in this international matchmaking.
Outliers are a good thing
You sure as hell don’t become a big hit by being normal. 500 recognizes that by going to the farthest ends of the earth to diversify its portfolio of companies. The idea of following a playbook for success is absurd to me. In the right hands, a formula for success can certainly go far — but in my opinion that’s predicated upon the person, not the formula itself.
So why not build a team that’s different? That simply CANNOT be replicated?
I would do the same for my founding team (actually, I did just that). But what does diversity mean? Different genders? A CEO/CTO combo? I argue it’s about personality and how we view the world.
Why I use personality types every single day of my life
As a startup founder, I’d be the last person to willingly put myself into buckets. People run away from their corporate jobs to avoid the abyss of being put at the bottom of another bucket. They are tired of formal, thoughtless titles (Social Media Manager comes to mind). We’re looking for a refreshing opportunity to become a General Business Athlete or Chief Growth Officer.
With that said, I’m looking for meaningful ways to evaluate my team. As CEO, the team is my product. In the interest of product managing, I have to look at building diversity and culture — the two meaningful pieces that create cohesion between the moving parts. Culture is a topic that deserves its own post, but diversity is incredibly important to my vision for Chewse.
While I don’t give a formal personality test to each hire, the key pieces of it loom in my head. I owe it to Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which has given me an innate trust in my ability to gut check or “thin slice” someone the moment you meet them. And that’s when I come up with their type.
MBTI in a nutshell
The Meyers Briggs Type Indicator is a trade-marked personality test developed by a mother-daughter duo. It actually has a fascinating history. It was created because the pair wanted to advance the cause of women finding jobs in the post WWII economy that they were comfortable with, as women moved from domestic lives to working lives outside the home.
It’s now a tool used by incredible companies like McKinsey (17,000 employees) and Bridgewater (world’s largest hedge fund, oddest culture ever). It assesses fundamental ways that you make decisions, view your world, and organize your tasks. There are 4 categories, with 2 options in each — with a total of 16 permutations of your personality type. You can take the unofficial free online test here, or take my off-the-cuff test below.
- Intraversion vs Extraversion (I/E) – Where do you get your energy from? Others (E) or being by yourself (I)?
- This isn’t about if you’re the life of the party. It’s about whether you have an internally-charged or externally-charged battery.
- Another way to look at it – If it’s a Friday night at your friends drag you out, do you end up being more energized with people (E) than if you had spent a quiet evening at home (I)?
- Another way to look at it – Are you more in the moment (S) or in the future(N)?
- I used to think this was about heart vs. head. But it’s also intricately tied with your values of relationships as compared with the ultimate logic of a situation.
- Another way to look at it – When you meet someone, are you more interested in their position in a company or their life story?
- The word “judging” alone is a misnomer. It doesn’t mean you’re a judgmental person 😉
- Another way to look at it – Do you care about what side the toilet paper roll (J) is or not (P)?
I love how this grid personifies each of the types. Granted, it’s not a perfect system (similar to how you can’t lump all the personality traits of all women or all Californians together — that’s when you come up with dangerous generalizations like “valley girls”). The grid is a snapshot of the kind of leader you can become.
I personally like the MBTI because it’s a simple, high-level view into a person and is a powerful tool to MAXIMIZE diversity. I’ve heard of others like Big Five, colors, power animals, etc. Whatever you use, I’d suggest being consistent and sharing with others on the team — and looking for those people that can fill your voids, and you can fill their blindspots.
Besides, you don’t want a whole team of Oprahs if you’re an Oprah 😉
*NOTE: The MBTI test certainly allows for you to sit along a range of strong or weak characteristics, but it does force you to choose one or the other as a preference. While I’ve taken 3 classes (both at USC and ESADE), I am no means certified (you can become MBTI-certified to give assessments for recruiting or educational purposes).