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In Search of another Type of Architect January 29, 2011

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, change, collaboration, essence, identity, the economy, transformation, transition.
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It sometimes seems as though there are two types of architects: those doing architecture and those leaving comments online.

Lately, a number of my own comments left at various sites seem to stop the flow of the discussion thread.

They’re conversation-ending comments.

Is it me? The equivalent of my comment’s breath?

Is it something I said?

Or is it my Type?

I believe the best commenters (and architects) play well with others – they reference each other’s comments, build on them, politely beg to differ.

And they politely beg others to respond.

Their comments move the discussion forward.

Mine seem to just sit there like a ton of bricks. Anchoring the discussion the way a chunk of concrete anchors wiseguys at the bottom of the lake.

As though to say, um, thanks for sharing (not.)

Take for example this comment that I left at AIA’s new flagship publication, Architect Magazine.

The article is entitled “A Difficult Character” about how, when a leadership consultant reviewed the Myers-Briggs tests of 100 architects, he discovered there really is an “architect type” — and maybe a difficult one.

The big finding of the article is that the most frequent type among the architects was ENTJ — extraversion, intuition, thinking, and judging. ENTJs accounted for a whopping 31 percent of the architects that the consultant tested, despite the very low frequency of the type (estimated at 1.8 percent) within the general population.

The article is well-written and engaging. I just thought it was strange that it didn’t acknowledge earlier research that seemed to contradict – or inform – its findings.

So I said as much in my comment:

Posted by: randydeutsch | Time: 1:26 PM Wednesday, January 19, 2011

When Donald W. MacKinnon conducted his famous Myers-Briggs tests on architects in the 1950s and 1960s (published in In Search of Human Effectiveness) he found the vast majority of successful, self-actualized, creative architects to be ENFPs. Our apparent transitioning from FPs to TJs over the past half-century raises two questions: 1. Had architects with less pedigree (read: success, esteem, creativity, self-actualization) been tested 50 years ago would they have likewise exhibited a preference for ENTJ? and 2. Our organizations, profession, industry and world all demand a greater ability to work collaboratively, in an integrated manner: perhaps we would be better off with ENFP’s perception and empathy – two qualities in high demand (and, it appears, low inventory) when working on collaborative, integrated teams?

Is it possible to report your own comment as offensive?

That comment hit the ground with a major thud and pretty much put an end to what had been an otherwise interesting and energized online discussion.

You can still hear the echoes in the corridors of online comments everywhere.

The irony, of course, is that my comment was pure ENTJ: technically accurate, flawlessly judgmental, completely logical,

And not at all what the discussion needed at that moment.

It lacked perception and cooperation.

What was needed at that moment was a classically ENFP response: one that exhibited empathy.

One that perceptively, and collaboratively, worked well with the commenters who came before – to assure that there would be commenters who came after.

Soul Searching for another Type

Type Talk, along with Please Understand Me, are the 2 best books I have come across that describe the different personality “preferences” or types.

Type Talk’s chapter headings pretty well sum up the essence of each type:

ISTJ Doing What Should Be Done
ISFJ A High Sense of Duty
INFJ An Inspiration to Others
INTJ Everything Has Room For Improvement
ISTP Ready to Try Anything Once
ISFP Sees Much But Shares Little
INFP Performing Noble Service to Aid Society
INTP A Love of Problem Solving
ESTP The Ultimate Realist
ESFP You Only Go Around Once in Life
ENFP Giving Life an Extra Squeeze
ENTP One Exciting Challenge After Another
ESTJ Life’s Administrators
ESFJ Hosts and Hostesses of the World
ENFJ Smooth-Talking Persuaders
ENTJ Life’s Natural Leaders

Architects, by and large, are natural leaders. And leadership is something we could use a great deal more of right now.

But when you dig down a bit into what makes ENTJs who they are – what makes them click – largely has to do with their need for control.

And control is not something in great demand today.

In fact, it may go a long way to explain some of the frustration of architects who are unwilling to collaborate – whether by sharing their BIM models, participating on integrated teams or even sharing their work and responsibilities with colleagues.

Work, more and more, is occurring simultaneously – requiring lateral thinking – not in a linear fashion.

And that hurts.

And is incredibly draining. All that psychic energy spent trying to get such an unseemly and messy world to line up.

Architects have long been order makers – not order takers.

But life more and more is unpredictable and unrelenting.

Architects are a bit like Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer in the cinematic animation Fantasia.

We can’t help ourselves from wanting the world to stand on command, in some orderly way.

But nonetheless can’t seem to mop quickly enough to hold back the deluge.

Which reminds me of a favorite quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby:

“I felt that I wanted the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever; I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart.”

Architects who show a preference for ENTJ want the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.

And you know, the world is just not cooperating.

Can ENTJs become ENFPs?

The short answer is: Yes.

Long ago, when I first took the Myers-Briggs assessment, I had been assessed as an ENFJ.

But not long after I noticed that many of the world’s most creative architects were ENFPs.

So I wanted to become one myself.

I put myself through a crash course of sorts. One of the things I did was to catch myself when I was passing judgment, to stop, take a deep breath, and substitute a more general – and hopefully helpful – observation or perception instead.

I tried to show more empathy than criticism whenever possible.

In fact, for years I taught a segment of a graduate level professional practice course where I purposefully assisted lifelong ENFJs and ENTJs who wanted to become ENFPs.

When I retested I was sure enough an ENFP and have remained one ever since.

Except for the times I revert, such as when reading through a great discussion thread and I feel compelled to leave an ENTJ-type comment.

It’s that part of me that wants the world to be in uniform and at a sort of moral attention forever.

And you know, I may be collaborating, but the world’s just not cooperating.



1. Anne Elliott Merica - January 29, 2011

Hi Randy-

I have to laugh because my mother was one of the first non-psychologists to latch onto the Meyers Briggs when I was growing up. She took great pride in her assessment type (INTJ I think) because it mentioned her favorite qualities and because it was so “rare” at less than 10% of people tested. She was also thrilled when I tested the same, as if she had succeeded in creating a genius.

I later came to find out that there were not supposed to be “good” and “bad” types as the world needs a variety. Furthermore, with 16 types, few if any are going to comprise more than 10% of the population. But more importantly, the developers of the test had recommended that people avoid being heavily weighted toward one characteristic as it made them less resilient. They encouraged people to stretch themselves in various areas.

I was quite pleased to hear that, since I was pretty borderline on a couple of categories and actually showed up as ENFP the next time I was tested also. Nice to hear I really am suited to being an architect, 30 some years later. The career testing they did when I was in high school didn’t allow for women in architecture. I was supposed to be in politics. No opinions there?!

But I too backslide, especially in comment boards where people just make boneheaded statements.

And if there’s a patience category, I flunk.

Randy Deutsch - January 29, 2011

“…where people just make boneheaded statements.” Now I just have to laugh!

Both architecture – and commenting – definitely require a delicate balance. Thanks Anne for sharing and for visiting.

2. Tara Imani - January 29, 2011

Hi Randy,
I have enjoyed all of your posts on various forums where you blog. I think you might be judging yourself to harshly and/or perhaps your posts gave people more things to ponder and assimilate rather than respond to you with a quick reply.

I was of the impression- from a seminar on work/balance at the ’08 AIA Convention, that architects were INTP’s (Introvert, Intuitive, Thinking, Perceiving); that’s what I am anyway.

I did wonder about how that type was to be a leader, that perhaps being an extrovert would better lend itself to leadership.

In attending a new season kick-off at the local interior design center last fall here in Houston, I had the chance to hear from Ralph Lauren’s Director of Design and a few other top interior designers- one from Hollywood and another who is a curator of a local museum. I asked them 2 questions: 1) how has the economy affected your business over the past few years and 2) how do you view architects?

Their answers were very candid: 1)the economy had affected them profoundly and they had to do things far differently in order to stay in business (by selling new products, etc., offering different services that were more relevant to the times). And 2) that they respect architects profoundly as they (we) are the drivers of the project.

On the second point, I pressed for more, indicating that some architects, myself included, expressed concern that our profession was not seen as the design leader. The gentleman from Ralph Lauren said, “Well, architects can be shy…I mean, some that I have worked with are…how can I say this…quiet, afraid to speak up on key issues. But, I have tremendous respect for architects as they are the drivers of the project.”

I think that we have a 40-50% unemployment rate in the architecture profession; if this is accurate, it is not that surprising that there is a lot of introspection going on as to why this is and a lot of discussion on how we can do things better. After all, we are problem-solvers by nature. We want to solve this problem, too. As we all know very well- the first step in solving any problem is to understand it, everyone knows this.

In this difficult economic time, we mustn’t confuse our true abilities with a severe lack of demand for our services.

Still, there are clients out there with discretionary income to spend. Those of us in the 40-50% unemployment rate need to find a way to tap into that market.

Randy Deutsch - January 29, 2011

Thanks Tara for the kind words and for your support. I especially enjoyed what you said about the RL people and how they said that they respect architects. When I hear words such as these I also press further – in part because we don’t hear this often enough and it helps to know what is behind these perceptions.

3. Ted Pratt - January 29, 2011

I find little if any credibility in the AIA article Randy. The sampling is too narrow and small. One consultant’s clients all of whom were corporate leaders. We all know there are many different kinds of architects in the total population. We may share some characteristics that differentiate us from the general population but a sampling of 100 won’t find that difference. A sampling randomly chosen of 1,000 might get us closer.

I have empathy (a classic characteristic) with your feeling that you kill the conversation. I have known that hollow feeling myself. I think it is partly due to the nature of the digital realm. Comments requiring critical analysis and reflection don’t mesh well with the digital world. They require reflection which the digital realm doesn’t provide for very well. What seems to work best in the digital world is quick controversial statements which elicit the same as responses.

I’m not going to allow that deficiency from stopping me from commenting and posting and I hope it doesn’t stop you or any of your listeners. Thanks for setting a great example for us and keep it up.

Randy Deutsch - January 29, 2011

Hi Ted. Thanks for the vote of confidence and for your comments on FB. I agree with you about the sampling – and wondered if Washington DC architect leaders are more conservative than those in similar roles elsewhere in the country and thus more likely to ne ENTJs? In fact, I wonder if there’s an ENTJ among you where you practice in SF? (I watched the movie Howl last night and suddenly can’t picture SF supporting ENTJs at all!) Thanks again for following this blog.

Ted Pratt - January 31, 2011

I just completed the test Randy and am ENFJ. An idealist teacher or smooth persuader depending on whom you read.

4. Christopher Parsons - January 29, 2011


Awesome post and question. I’ve certainly killed my fair share of discussion threads in my time. I’ve often wondered how or if I could change my approach, and upon reflection, I think maybe I could be better about leaving my comments more open-ended, leaving room for someone to build upon my ideas.

And then I think, “you’re so vain,” and it might have nothing to do with me, the world just moved on. I mean, someone has to be the last comment, right?


PS, I’m a San Francisco ENTJ.

Randy Deutsch - January 29, 2011

Ha! Open-ended comments. Great advice.

Per your comment about the world moving on, my wife’s favorite words to me are “it’s not about you.” You’d think I’d have learned this by now.

You’re a SF ENTJ huh? My theory of “no ENTJs in SF” lasted exactly 16 minutes. I’m moving my theory onto LA..

5. Christopher Parsons - January 29, 2011


Your original theory is still intact.

After I posted the comment, I realized that the last time I took the test was 12 years ago, before I a) moved to San Francisco and b) worked at my first architecture firm.

I just so happened to have the instrument around, so I retook it. And my type changed to ENTP.

I think that makes sense, both from spending time in San Francisco and 10 years working with architects and designers. (And being married to an artist.)

I am sitting on a half-written blog post about the changing nature of thought leadership. My hunch is, that the advent of both social networking technology and a changing culture of collaboration are changing the fundamental approach of the most successful innovators.

Instead of “I know best,” the new thought leader posits a hypothesis, and throws it out digitally to the blogosphere, LinkedIn group, or intranet or in person, to the workshop attendees, project team, or client for feedback and a genuine interest in improving their ideas.

My sense is, the tagline of “Thought Leader 2.0” is “what do you guys think?”

I believe that Thought Leader 2.0 is open, transparent, collaborative, informal, vulnerable, iterative, and genuinely (and tactically) interested in getting the best ideas on the table, even if they are not their own. Thought Leader 2.0 then synthesizes the ideas around the table, collecting the spare parts, develops an updated version of the idea, and pitches the improved idea again, for another round of revision. And on and on…

That’s my hunch at least.

What do you guys think?

An ENTP from San Francisco

Randy Deutsch - January 30, 2011

As I am writing on this subject right now as well, as it applies to technology in the construction industry, I’ll chime in here but will be brief.

I believe your description of the Thought Leader 2.0 is spot-on and if it isn’t where we are today as a profession and industry it presents an accurate map for where we need to go.

The implications for education – online and off, formal and in the workplace – are huge, and will go a long way toward determining whether thought leaders of tomorrow can live up to this combination of skillsets.

It is often said that the ideal facilitator shouldn’t have an agenda of their own so that they can better serve the process. Thought leaders, by their very definition, combine the skills of facilitators, MCs, moderators and curators of information, knowledge and insights as well as synthesizing creators of (their own and other’s) ideas themselves.

Our success and even survival resides in our ability to balance these two seemingly competing demands – as collaborators and creators – while still maintaining the ability to function effectively in our roles.

Sounds like I’m once again invoking F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time, and still maintain the ability to function.”

In my thinking, substitute “Thought Leader 2.0” for “first-rate intelligence” and there we have our greatest challenge before us.

I’m interested in knowing what others have to say about Chris’s comments here…

Ted Pratt - January 30, 2011

Christopher I agree your statement “Instead of “I know best,” the new thought leader posits a hypothesis, and throws it out digitally to the blogosphere, LinkedIn group, or intranet or in person, to the workshop attendees, project team, or client for feedback and a genuine interest in improving their ideas.”

I’ve been practicing a similar approach with clients for the last 10 years or so. When I first introduced the technique some clients responded “if we knew these things we don’t need you” yet others were intrigued and found the process instructive. At the time I called this the “Think Tank.” The process has evolved over time and today’s clients are more accepting and enjoy participating in what I now term the “Visioning Think Tank.”

As the process has become more collaborative and thought provoking the design results are more satisfying to myself and clients. By predilection I feel more comfortable with a collaborative design process rather than” I’ve gone to the mountain” approach to architecture.

For more of this I refer you to my blog which I think you are familiar with.

6. Randy Deutsch - January 30, 2011

I reminded my wife that her 4 favorite words to me are “it’s not about you.”

She said: “Get over your self.”

Ronald Reed - January 31, 2011

As the original author of one of the conversations on KA site regarding “collaboration and efficiency” that you seemed to “kill” with your comment being last, I can assure you that your comment was not the “nail in the coffin”. I know, for myself, I was just not able to get back to the conversation to follow and continue the discussion, which I will try to do ASAP. I think your wife may be on to something.
Given the current fascination with an architect’s credentials and abilities being better able to be determined or defined by the length of the strings of letters following an architect’s name (AIA, LEED AP, CSI, RA, etc.) I would caution that this “outing” of the Myers-Briggs test and their linkage with “architect types” may serve as boon to the business card industry as architects everywhere, concerned that in this “competitive marketplace”, they may not to be perceived in the “proper light” by potential clients (or employers) run to order new cards with yet another series of letters following their names indicating the “official third party tested and assigned” MB Type.

Randy Deutsch - January 31, 2011

Hey, in this day and age we can use all the business propositions we can find 😉 Thanks for chiming in here!

7. Nancy McClure - January 30, 2011

Interesting reflections in this post – I just received an INFJ result, but resolve to retake the test over the coming week to see if there is an impact to testing in different environments in conjunction with immediate task-related attitudes, vs Sunday morning over coffee.

I may skew that SF architect survey. [grin]

Randy Deutsch - January 30, 2011

Thanks Nancy. Retaking the test is kind of like the temptation to open just one more fortune cookie. Maybe the next fortune will be the one…?

As a current INFJ, according to Type Talk you are An Inspiration to Others. That’s a pretty good fortune (Type) in my book – one that our profession – and age – needs more of.

Depending on how you retest, you might consider keeping your current results in your back pocket, just in case.

8. Nancy McClure - January 30, 2011

That gave me a chuckle, Randy, but I believe we all shift our personas slightly depending upon circumstances and situations – so it is very likely that testing during the lunch break of a deadline driven week would yield a different result than my Sunday coffee screening. (or perhaps that’s just the NF in me talking!)

9. anne whitacre - January 31, 2011

what isn’t mentioned in that original article is that if you add the ENTJ and the INTJ, you get more than 50% which is quite remarkable. In the original article, while the ENTJs make up 31% the next largest segment — the “I” version, is an additional 20%. Over the past 40 years, I have morphed from an INTJ to an ENTJ, but as a spec writer, I think the TJ is a pretty important component of what I do — we generally do not want empathy with a roof joint, we just want it to work properly.

Randy Deutsch - January 31, 2011

TJ is a critical component of every effective organization, project and team.

I know you know this, Anne, (and these are admittedly generalizations to make a point) but the empathy is for the structural engineer who is concerned about thermal expansion and the designer about what that is going to look like, for the technical architect who has to detail it and, yes, for you as well – for the impacts it is going to have on the specs (which can be considerable.) We need both. My contention is, to be indispensible, that we develop both within each of us.

10. Tim Parker - February 3, 2011

Aaaghhh I have met my enemy and it is me.

fabulous post. Thanks. I’m ENTJ – close to the middle these days on E, T and J because I have moved my needle too. And I move from N to S when I want to produce data to demolish someone’s argument.

So I sometimes kill threads too. Did most recently just last week.

This helped. Thanks for the therapy.

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[…] Here is a more nuanced take on the issue of what kind of personalities architects should have, by blogger and architect Randy Deutsch. […]

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[…] In Search of another Type of Architect […]

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