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Taking Type Exercises from Good to Great

type exercises

Jane Kise joins us at the AusAPT National Conference in Melbourne in November 2019 from the US to present on ‘Three Keys to Effective Type Exercises‘: “Making type visible through exercises is a key tool for helping individuals and teams improve ability to communicate, collaborate, and change. However, there’s a world of difference between conducting an exercise and facilitating it successfully to change people’s mindsets. We’ll explore how to choose the “right” exercise, form groups (especially when not all types are present), and debrief. “

Jane provides this article on ‘Taking Type Exercises from Good to Great’  as background for her presentation in November. Jane will also be presenting a half day workshop prior to the conference on ‘Coaching Clients for Focus in the Digital Age.’

Taking Type Exercises from Good to Great

If I’ve learned one thing in 20 years of teaching type, it’s the importance of experiential exercises. You almost have to wonder whether John Dewey, an American philosopher whose ideas still shape education, had been to a boring, lecture-only type workshop when he wrote

An ounce of experience is better than a ton of theory simply because it is only in experience that any theory has vital and verifiable significance. An experience, a very humble experience, is capable of generating and carrying any amount of theory (or intellectual content), but a theory apart from an experience cannot be definitely grasped even as theory. (Dewey, 1916, p. 144)

Kind of a mouthful, but eternally true!

People often contact me saying, “I’ve only got 30 minutes to introduce type. Guess I’ll just talk about the preferences?” I reply, “No, give them an experience with just one preference pair and you’ll leave them wanting more.”

In other words, trust type. If you set up an activity properly, people will grasp that there are significant differences in how normal people perceive and judge—and that there are patterns that make this theory useful. If, note, you set it up properly. Here are three things I’ve learned—often the hard way!—about doing just that.

Plan for Processing

Often, the key to understanding isn’t so much the exercise you choose but the way you process it.For example, to clarify Extraversion and Introversion I might provide a definition and teach through five or six bullet points that describe each preference. Then I insert a simple exercise. With teenagers, I often have them sit silently for 2 minutes.

To process, we first discuss what we saw. Many of those who prefer Extraversion start toe-tapping or looking around while giggling after about 30 seconds. Those who prefer Introversion often close their eyes and lean back in their chairs while smiling. It’s simple, but it illustrates the heart of the preference pair: are they energized through action and interaction or through reflection?

Second, we process their reactions. I ask, “Who’s sure you prefer Extraversion? How does staying silent for 2 minutes relate to being quiet in real life? What happens?” They’ll often talk about getting in trouble at school or how they love to talk through problems with friends. Then I ask those who prefer Introversion. They might describe exhaustion in noisy classrooms or how much they like the morning bus ride (when everyone’s tired and quiet) versus the afternoon bus ride (when all the students who prefer Extraversion are energized and talkative after a day of interaction).

Too often, we rush through this processing stage, but it’s essential for helping many participants clarify type.

Plan for Illustrating Clear Differences

A second key step for effective experiential exercises is ensuring that even those new to the theory can spot type differences. Let’s take the common “Write about a ____” often used to illustrate Sensing and Intuition. I used to simply display a Salvador Dali picture and say, “Write about this image. You have two minutes. No questions, no talking.” When they finished, I displayed definitions of Sensing and Intuition, asked for volunteers to read their writing, and had the group try to categorize their responses.

Sometimes this worked. Typical Sensing responses for “The Enigma of Hitler”, one that as of yet none of my participants have recognized, include lists of objects in the picture—dish, crumbs, shoreline, umbrella, shadowy figure, etc. Typical Intuitive responses include “This is a depiction of the day after a nuclear disaster” or the start of a fantasy story about sea monsters.

Often, though, examples aren’t clear. They start with a list and then switch to a story. Or, a dominant Feeling type might write, “This picture makes me feel depressed with all of its dark colors and that creepy, melting phone,” seemingly mixing themes and descriptions.

Now as people write, I circulate the room to find the three clearest writing samples for each preference, placing green sticky notes by the Sensing ones and pink notes by the Intuitive ones. I then display the definitions and have “green notes” read first, then “pink,” and ask people to describe the difference between the sets.

I invite others to share if they wish, but make some other key points:

  • This isn’t a definitive test for Sensing or Intuition since how you respond can be influenced by school experiences, training, or by second-guessing the facilitator’s intentions
  • If I’d asked, everyone could have described the picture and everyone could have written a fictional story. You’re trying to discern what you prefer, where you’d naturally begin.
  • These preferences are about the information we naturally pay attention to—do we start with reality or do we start with hunches, connections or analogies?

Use Observers

If some participants aren’t sure of their preference, I’ll ask them be observers as type-alike groups work on a task as a way to clarify their own type. Frequently, group responses look very similar, but there’s a huge difference in how they work together—and the observers can help you by conveying what they saw and what they learned about which group would be easier for them to join.

For Sensing and Intuition, I might ask the two groups to draw floor plans of the hotel we’re in. Usually, all of the drawings are fairly accurate, with little that reveals differences in how we perceive. The observers, though, report that the Sensing types use reality to draw it—they walk out into the lobby or they access Google Earth on their iPads and draw from the satellite picture of the building’s footprint. In contrast, the Intuitive groups start with a short discussion of the general outline of the floor and then brainstorm connections among their impressions as to various lobby and restaurant features.

As the observers report out, conversation usually turns to how often participants have bumped into these different ways of perceiving information in real life, as well as how they’ve been shut down when in the minority.

Look Ahead

One overarching danger of exercises is that you won’t have a diverse group. If I’m working with groups of less than a dozen people, I often bring examples from other groups to ensure I can demonstrate the differences. I also do this when I suspect a larger group may lack diversity—I once worked with a high-tech marketing team who all preferred Intuition and Thinking, for example.

I might hand out cards with the Dali writings from previous participants and have people work in pairs to sort them for Sensing and Intuition. I also have pictures of ideal office spaces drawn by groups who prefer IJ, IP, EP and EJ.

My point? Take pictures of flip charts. Save writing samples and other artifacts for future groups to analyze and discuss!

type exercises


There is a limit to how much groups can process, though. Further, the less they know about type, the shorter their attention span will be for listening to reports from preference-alike or type-alike groups—especially if you form groups based on the eight dominant functions or all 16 types. Images, not words, can better help them process the different types.

I often give each type-alike group markers and a sheet of copy paper on which to draw a symbol of how their group leads, influences, serves others—whatever fits with the goals of the workshop. They also add a one-line answer to a question such as, “What is most frustrating in meetings?” “What is your motto?” “What one rule would improve this place?” Then for report-outs, one person has 10 seconds to describe their symbol and read their line while I tape the sheets up to form a type table “quilt.” You’ll find participants studying the images at every break.

Following these guidelines—planning for clarity, noting group processes rather than just results, readying examples for homogenous groups, and using symbols—frees me up to boldly go where no type practitioner has gone before. I can trust type to deliver even with exercises I’ve never tried. That keeps this work as fresh and exciting for me as it was 20 years ago when I first learned how seemingly unfathomable differences among people could be explained—and bridged—through this rich theory we shepherd called psychological type.


Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and education: An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Free Press.

About Jane Kise

Jane Kise, EdD, is an experienced MBTI Master Practitioner, certified in Steps I, II and III. A former CAPT MBTI certification faculty member, she now certifies people as type practitioners through TypePro. She is also the author of more than two dozen books, many of which incorporate type concepts. Her research on type in education has won awards.