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The Ideal Personality Traits for a UX Consultant

by Jane Lea Smith , 27.09.2012

This article is re-posted from User Centric’s blog.

A few months ago, consultants around our office were adding theirMyers-Briggs profiles to their Skype status. As an introvert, I naturally did not post mine, but this got me wondering whether there was indeed a profile for the ideal consultant. What could a personality profile tell someone about whether user experience consulting would be the right career for them?

After examining the varied profiles of our consultants, all of whom are successful in our field, I’ve come to the conclusion that no single profile is the best. Success as a user experience consultant is dependent on how one uses and balances one’s unique personality traits rather than on which personality traits one possesses. Extremes could be a liability, requiring extra effort to moderate, but tendencies in one direction or the other can represent areas of strength on which to capitalize. Since the Myers-Briggs was the scale that led me down this path of inquiry, I’ll use each of its four dichotomies to explain what I mean.

Introversion vs. Extraversion

Introverts have the natural ability to focus intently and, most importantly, to reflect on what they’re seeing and hearing. In UX research, this ability is applied constantly in the analysis of human behavior and interaction. For instance, moderators who are processing in the moment and observing the nuances of participant behavior are able to formulate careful probes that help to uncover meaningful insights for the client. On the consulting side, while introverts may find the dynamic of group debriefs somewhat challenging, they may be energized and particularly effective at carefully processing the trends and solutions that emerge during research engagements.

Extraverts can use their outgoing nature to engage participants and put them at ease. Consequently, participants are more likely to quickly ‘forget’ that they are in a testing situation and demonstrate more natural interactions or discussions that lead to meaningful feedback. Feeding on the energy of many people, extraverts thrive in group debriefs where quick action is an asset. They moderate this tendency to act swiftly, though, by helping clients reflect and decide upon the best methodology to address their objectives.

Sensing vs. Intuition

People who “sense” have a stronger preference for focusing intently on the information before them when  drawing conclusions and meaning. As an evidence-based practice, user experience research relies on this skill, so those with this preference are fortunate that it comes naturally to them. These consultants are able to use real observations to reach conclusions that address the client’s overall objectives. Their recommendations are strongly supported by the data and offer pragmatic solutions. They may enhance their efforts by working with colleagues to spark their own creativity for more innovative ideas.

Those who lean toward the intuitive side are great at interpreting meaning from the research and helping clients to see the possibilities. They envision creative solutions and can often identify patterns in the research that support those solutions. With their preference for a top-down approach, these researchers may engage the support of their colleagues to consider the specific steps that go into making their ideas a reality.

Thinking vs. Feeling

A preference for thinking means a tendency to use a logical approach when making decisions. As a neutral party, a consultant needs to offer clients a balanced perspective where the pros and cons of possible solutions have been considered. Consultants with this preference may excel at helping their clients to systematically assess costs and benefits, leading to actionable recommendations that target high-priority issues.

While logical thinking is certainly an asset for research and analysis, those with a tendency toward feeling thrive in a consulting role where tactful communication is key. For instance, this type of consultant may be a natural at leading a Key Insights workshop with a client team composed of individuals who have competing interests. Such situations require the facilitator to read cues from participants and to help the group consider the impact of different points of view on the user experience.

Judging vs. Perceiving

As many experienced consultants can attest, a well-planned research engagement reduces team stress and increases client confidence. Consultants with a preference toward judging are excellent at meeting deadlines and managing a project in such a way that it appears effortless to the client. They plan ahead, and they anticipate issues before they occur. When timelines are tighter than planned, these consultants may need to step outside of their comfort zone and adjust their plan to be successful. Consultants who use their perceiving function in their ‘outer lives’ show others an incredible knack for adapting to the unexpected. In user experience research, issues ranging from recruiting uncertainties to last-minute prototype changes require the ability to remain flexible and calm, responding in the moment in a productive manner. While clients appreciate a well-planned approach, they are comforted when a consultant can roll with the punches, coming up with good solutions in unexpected circumstances.

Recognizing one’s own assets and capitalizing on the strengths of colleagues is a smart way to get the most out of each personality type. I am fortunate that, at GfK, we consider a team approach to be an essential aspect of effective UX consulting. Because of this, as an “ISFJ,” I can honestly say I’ve got the ideal UX consultant profile. And if you’re an ENTP who does the same... so do you!