Friday, April 1, 2011

An April Fool's Errand

A fool's errand is an impossible, or useless, task, and people with birthdays in April are sometimes called April Fools. I'm am such a fool and have what might be considered such a task; mixing personality typing, game/interaction design and programming skills to create an advice system. It's designed to help with problems in school, at work and any other time, based on who you are and how you do things. Some might say this is impossible, or that it's useless for me to try, but I have the will and see a way.

I think most people would agree that people problems get in our way more than any other. With that in mind, and as a game designer interested in human behavior and education/personal development, this seems like a good problem for me to tackle. Others have used a wide variety of solutions to help people with these problems, but we still face miscommunication and personality clashes constantly. So, maybe the problem right now isn't providing a single solution, but to provide people with a personally usable solution. That's where the personality typing comes into play, to describe each person in a way that a computer can understand; like a tag or category. The computer then just compares relevant rankings, like suggesting other products you might be interested in while shopping online.

Another possible reason we still have so many people problems is our reactions to the systems. We could blame the presentations or the people, but either way it's not working. Since I'm an INTJ (, that's the part I care about; it doesn't work. As a game designer looking into both media design and cognitive science, improving the presentation is part of my plan, but the personality typing also helps here in smoothing out communication problems. Sometimes it's intentional, but sometimes we don't mean to ignore good advice, or don't see how it is good advice. Sometimes, as I have come to understand, it takes indirect methods to achieve lasting results. That's why I want to help individuals and organizations, through the people in positions of power and those within the organizations.

“It is a paradox of our time that those with power are too comfortable to notice the pain of those who suffer, and those who suffer have no power

To break out of this trap requires, as Elie Wiesel has put it, the courage to speak truth to power.”
- Daniel Goleman, “Vital Lies, Simple Truths” page 14

INTJ's, what Keirsey calls Masterminds, are logical, strategic thinkers who care more about truth than what people say and feel. Regardless of who said, suggested or supports an idea, it either works or it doesn't, it's true or it's false. (Think Batman. It may depend on the circumstances, but that's life. How people feel and believe may be part of the circumstances it depends on, but it doesn't change the facts. I'm not trying to come up with an in-person solution, but rather an automated solution, a system, based on how people behave. This is one reason why an INTJ, like me, is a good fit for creating the system.

However, lately it has been like all my efforts come to naught. ( I have plenty of contacts, but until I have something to show, there's not much for them to do to help. I've applied for fellowships and internships, but they apparently had other applicants they preferred.. After seeing the success of Gameful through Kickstarter, I really thought I could do a fund raising project through them, but they said this wasn't a good fit. What came to my rescue was getting a job several months back, which has allowed me to buy a bunch of relevant books and to save up for a personality typing certificate. It also helps that I met a guy willing to give me a helping hand in creating my own fund raising project.

My plan now is to get the Keirsey Temperament Sorter certification, combine that knowledge with my other research to create a prototype framework, offer this help to several groups of people, refine the system through iterative development and then to make the system and results available to the public. That's my plan, because that's what I can afford to do on my own. There are more certifications, trainings, books, tools and even starting up a non-profit that I would like to put money into, to help others and myself.

Here's how I decided on that plan. The most well known system in personality typing, so far as I know is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. More people know of it and respect it than any other system from what I've heard. There seems to be one opportunity that I can find for me to get certified in the MBTI, a local training at the end of July that costs $1,500. I'll have about $1,000 saved up by then, which is enough to cover the online training program for the KTS, which can be taken anytime, but not enough for the MBTI certification. Since the systems are fairly similar, compatible and complementary, I want to get them both when I have the opportunity. Honestly, this summer seems like the best time, for the project and my other education plans. So, I plan on getting the Keirsey system certification unless I can pay for the MBTI training in time, though both would still be better.

Batman is not such an awesome hero because of his training, resources or opportunities. He's a hero because he uses his abilities, stands up for what's right and never gives up. ( Albert Einstein claimed to not be particularly smart or talented, but instead to be inquisitive, and to stick with a problem longer than others did. He's thought to be an INTJ, like Batman, and myself. Isabel Briggs Myers, co-author of the MBTI, wrote a book titled “Gifts Differing”. In it she says that INTJs, “Are determined to the point of stubbornness.”, “Are stimulated by difficulties, and most ingenious in solving them.”, and “Are willing to concede that the impossible takes a little longer – but not much.”. She also says that INTJs are very innovative and independent people.

Perhaps this project looks like a fool's errand, but it's my kind of project and I'm putting everything I have into it. Almost all my disposable income and free time are going into this project. My interest and research into both logical fields, like computer science and mathematics, and more intuitive fields, like art and human behavior, lets me see many points of view, which I'm using to design this project. My “official” education is aimed at Computer Science, which is directly applicable to building the systems of this project.

Have fun, spread the word and tell me what you think,
Igen Oukan
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The Game Master said...

I think personality typing is a good way to start a game with. Like in all RPGs, you need to choose a character. BUT, I think the MBTI system is problematic as it is difficult to fully categorize people as this OR that. For instance, it is my personal experience that I started out as INTJ, going through ENTP then balancing out as a rational xNTx. Working on my empathy for the past couple of years, I feel like an xNxx.

I foresee the inevitability of becoming a fully self-aware XXXX.

Positive psychology would be a good place to start. They have compiled the 24 Virtues In Action (VIA) strengths and it seems like a good continuum to muddle through the vast spectrum of human experience.

Steven Egan said...

The progression of type that you describe is similar to the process of becoming a balanced person described in "Gifts Differing" by Isael Briggs Myers. In one of the books I'm reading, "Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention", it is stated that the idea is present in Carl Jung's ideas. I too foresee that inevitability, though I'm sticking a little closer to being an INTJ that uses all the others to optimize my mental systems and adaptability.

Positive Psychology and it's resources, like the Authentic Happiness site and the books, intrigue me. It sounds like another system for me to try to add into my efforts. Thank you for sharing.

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