Making your research accessible

Policy entrepreneurs’ skills with a little bit of help from Carl Jung

By 1 June 2012

The RAPID Outcome Mapping Approach, in short ROMA, is a strategic planning tool that ODI’ RAPID programme has suggested for some years as a way to increase the chances of research evidence and knowledge to influence policy and development practice. One of ROMA’s steps focuses on the assessment of the skills that are considered useful for influencing policy through knowledge and research-evidence:  1) researchers need to be storytellers; 2) researchers they need to be good networkers; 3) they need to know how policies are made; 4) they need to be fixers and know the insides of policy making.

More recently, a couple of skills have been added that can contribute to successful evidence based policy influencing. The first skill is obvious, although it is worth highlighting: researchers need also to be good researchers for good quality research is a conditio sine qua non for influencing policy.  Researchers need also to have sufficient knowledge of project management tolls and processes because complex policy research projects requires some experience sin managing multiple task and teams.

The underlying argument is that this set of skills should enhance the chance of research evidence and, more in general knowledge, contributing to policy making. An important corollary is that researchers do not need to have all these skills within themselves, but these skills should be present in a research team or in an institution conducting policy influencing research.

But what makes a good networker? or a good researcher? or a good manager? Stating that these skills can help the process of evidence –based policy influencing is fine, but we need then to go a step further and reflect on what makes a good researcher, a good networker, a good story teller, or a good manager.

Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Gustav Jung, can help us answering these questions.  Jung lived between 1875 and 1961 and is considered the founder of analytical psychology. During his career as a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Jung found that people have some personality characteristics that return over and over again. He classified people using three opposite criteria:

  • Extraversion (E) – Introversion (I)
  • Sensing (S) – Intuition (N)
  • Thinking (T) – Feeling (F)

In 1962 Isabel Briggs Myers added a fourth criterion:

  • Judging (J) – Perceiving (P)

Why these dichotomies? Because individuals are primarily extroverted or introverted, sensing or intuitive, thinkers or feelers, judging or perceiving.

When we talk about Extroversion – Introversion, we are distinguishing between the two worlds in which all of us live. There is a world inside ourselves, and a world outside ourselves. When we are dealing with the world outside of ourselves, we are “extroverting”. When we are inside our own minds, we are “introverting”. Do we define our life’s direction externally or internally? Which world gives us our energy, and which do we perhaps find draining?

The Sensing  – iNtuition preference refers to how we gather information. We all need data on which to base our decisions. We gather data through our five senses. Jung contended that there are two distinct ways of perceiving the data that we gather. The “Sensing” preference absorbs data in a literal, concrete fashion. The “Intuitive” preference generates abstract possibilities from information that is gathered. We all use both Sensing and Intuition in our lives, but to different degrees of effectiveness and with different levels of comfort. Which method of gathering information do we trust the most? Do we rely on our five senses and want concrete, practical data to work with? Or do we trust our intuitions without necessarily building upon a solid foundation of facts?

When Jung studied human behavior, he noticed that people have the capability to make decisions based on two very different sets of criteria: Thinking and Feeling. When someone makes a decision that is based on logic and reason, they are operating in Thinking mode. When someone makes a decision that is based on their value system, or what they believe to be right, they are operating in Feeling mode. We all use both modes for making decisions, but we put more trust into one mode or the other. A “Thinker” makes decisions in a rational, logical, impartial manner, based on what they believe to be fair and correct by pre-defined rules of behavior. A “Feeler” makes decisions on the individual case, in a subjective manner based on what they believe to be right within their own value systems. While some decisions are made entirely by Thinking or Feelings processes, most decisions involve some Thinking and some Feeling. Decisions that we find most difficult are those in which we have conflicts between our Thinking and Feeling sides. In these situations, our dominant preference will take over.

Judging and Perceiving preferences, within the context of personality types, refers to our attitude towards the external world, and how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. People with the Judging preference want things to be neat, orderly and established. The Perceiving preference wants things to be flexible and spontaneous. Judgers want things settled, Perceivers want thing open-ended.

We all use both Judging and Perceiving as we live our day-to-day life but which way of life are we more comfortable with? People with strong Judging preferences might have a hard time accepting people with strong Perceiving preferences, and vice-versa.

Each of us has a specific combination of these personality types that make us unique. It also makes us more suited to be a researcher, or a manager, or a networker.

Good researchers, for example, tend to be INTP (i.e. Introvert Intuitive Thinking Perceiving). They are good at generating and analyzing theories and possibilities to prove or disprove them. They have a great deal of insight and are creative thinkers, which allows them to quickly grasp complex abstract thoughts. INTPs are driven to seek clarity in the world and are happiest in careers which allow them a great deal of autonomy in which they can work primarily alone on developing and analyzing complex theories with the goal of discovery a truth, rather than the discovery of a practical application.  They have little desire to lead or follow

ESTJ (i.e. Extrovert Sensing Thinking Judging) are also usually good managers. They are good at coming up with long-term strategies.  They like to be organized and are group oriented. They are emotionally stable and like to attend to the need of others. They respect authority and like to meet deadlines. They do not like working alone and may sometime be too meticulous or disciplined.

ROMA advocates for a mix of skills when the aim is to conduct policy-influencing research. I think that the personality types based on Jung theory can help to refine the identification of this mix of skills by making us understand better where our team members and colleagues feel more at easy and can make the greatest contribution. Now that I think about it, the personality types of our key audience (i.e. policy makers) may also have an important role to play when it comes to the uptake of our research evidence … material for another blog.

You can try out your personality type with a short test at http://bit.ly/KSl4xp

This blog originally appeared on my personal blog: Tambobo Bay 1210

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