Organizations use several different personality systems to support the personal and professional development of employees at all levels. While the Enneagram is the oldest of these systems, dating back several thousand years, it is also the most recent addition to the systems and models being used. People often ask about the differences and similarities between the Enneagram and other models and whether or not the Enneagram can be used in organizations that are currently or have previously used another approach.

In the section, you’ll find information about the other major personality systems being used across the globe, how these systems compare to the Enneagram, and how the Enneagram can be used in conjunction with these other approaches.

The Enneagram and DISC

The DISC theory was developed by W. M. Marston in the 1920s and is a self-assessment that classifies four aspects of behavior by testing a person's preferences in word associations. DISC is an acronym for Dominance (relating to control, power, and assertiveness), Influence (relating to social situations and communication), Steadiness (relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness), and Conscientiousness (relating to structure and organization). D and I represent extroverted aspects of the personality, while C and S are introverted aspects. D and C represent task-focused aspects, I and S are the social or relationship-focused aspects.

There are dozens of different versions of DISC, and the results of a test (available online, with software, or a paper and pencil version) help people explore behavior and preferences across those four dimensions. The tests are short – usually about 18-25 sets of questions, some offering single word choices, others sentences or phrases.

The Enneagram, by contrast, does not have one test that confirms a person's Enneagram style with a high level of validity or reliability, although there are several online or paper and pencil tests that can provide valuable guidance. Instead, the Enneagram offers a very precise description of human thinking, feeling, and behaving patterns as a basis for self-observation and self-reflection and requires that individuals engage in self-reflection and self-discovery in order to accurately identify their Enneagram style. As a result of this process of self-investigation and because it describes humans in our full complexity – complete with a personal history and an understanding of our basic drives, motivations, and worldviews – the Enneagram has the capability to help us understand ourselves and others, then to grow and develop at fundamental level and at an accelerated pace.

Today's business challenges require the ability to be more self-aware and to reflect the habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting and changing them if necessary, and the Enneagram provides a way to do this. There are two major aspects of personality: the genetic-biological structure, which cannot be changed, and the learned behavior, which is influenced by the surroundings and much easier to change. The Enneagram integrates both – the "bio-computer," including the latest scientific insights into the functioning of our brain with the "software," and the learned behavior, with the underlying motives and intentions. In addition, the Enneagram describes how attention is organized (like the autopilot of an aircraft) and how perception can be very selective (like the auto-focus of a camera lens).

There is a simple truth: "What you put in is what you get out!" The insights generated by a 10-minute self-assessment are different than those generated by a lifelong process of self-observation, although both have value and can be used together. Using the Enneagram helps us see our life experiences from an objective point of view rather than identifying with those experiences and processes. This strengthens our "inner observer." The DISC is a good tool for someone who wants to go through a specific state on the interstate freeway as fast as possible without looking at the cities along the way. The Enneagram can be compared to a very detailed map of the interstate highway that includes all the cities and villages along the way. It also shows you how to appreciate the city you are in, as well as how to navigate new terrain.

Finally, the two systems can also be used together. For example, because Enneagram Twos and Fours are relationship-oriented, these individuals may become irritated when interacting with a coworker who is very detail focused – a C profile (conscientious and relating to structure) on the DISC. Understanding this difference can help Two and Fours adjust their interactional style and communicate in a more detailed way so that there is better understanding between both parties, just as the individual with the C profile can put more effort into relationship building than he or she might normally do.

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The Enneagram and Insights MDI®

Insights MDI® (Management Development Instruments), a system of diagnostic tools to determine behavior and value preferences in different contexts of the work environment, is based on C.G. Jung’s typing system and W.M. Marston’s DISC model. The system does not reflect the entire personality; it consists of the four following “complexes” that are then used to explain and analyze human behaviour: competences, behavioural preferences, capacity to adapt to different situations, and motives for action. Available in 10 different versions for various target groups, Insights is used for recruiting staff, personnel development, and team building.

Using a simple, computer-based questionnaire, Insights describes eight basic types and 60 subtypes. The client marks adjectives in 24 different categories with four choices in each category – from “fits me best” to “fits me least” – and it takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. A 25-page computer generated report is available quickly and requires no further explanation.

The analysis distinguishes two types: a person’s basic style (or core style), which does not change, and an adapted style (or mask), which may vary according to current challenges. Insights can also provide a comparison between a person’s profile and the requirements of a particular job, thus offering additional insights in the area of work success and job satisfaction. Real teams can also develop their “team wheel” in order to enhance communication and cooperation among the team members.

  Insights Enneagram
  • Four basic orientations: introversion, extraversion, thinking, and feeling
  • Eight basic types
  • 60 subtypes
  • Three core needs: control, acknowledgement, and security
  • Nine basic types
  • 27 subtypes
  • Indirect self-assessment (online questionnaire)
  • Easy to take with quick results
  • Direct self-assessment required via typing interviews, classes, etc.
  • Few sufficiently validated and reliable test instruments available for indirect assessment
  • Typing requires more time and self-reflection
  • Precise analysis on behavioural level
  • Explicitly does not intend to explain deeper motives and motivations which drive the personality
  • Provides deepest insights into the motives and motivations of human beings compared to all other systems and models
  • Variety of work applications
  • Broader spectrum of work applications
  • Gives hints for better communication (for the client and for other people) and some areas for improvement
  • Emphasizes and provides detailed personal and professional development activities, specifically designed for each type, in a wide array of areas

A personal note from the author
I am a certified Enneagram trainer (1995), as well as a certified Insights trainer (1996); my Enneagram style is Two – the “helper” or “supporter.” Within one year, I took the Insights test twice and the results were almost identical. In both cases, my adapted style was 45, a subtype of the basic type “coordinator.” This was no surprise because it reflected the demands of my job (director of an international environmental NGO), which did not change within that time frame.

In the first Insights test report, my basic type was 7 (“inspirator”), while in the second report, it was a direct neighbour, type 8 (“adviser”). Insights types 7 and 8 corresponded perfectly to the core issues of the Enneagram style Two: to give help and advice to others and to inspire others to develop their talents. My own experience illustrates the synergy between the models. The Insights reports gave me helpful recommendations on the behavioural level, but they could not give satisfying answers to the “why” questions. The Enneagram not only filled this gap, it also opened new spaces for my long-term personal development.

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The Enneagram and the MBTI

MBTI Background

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on C. Jung’s personality theory and was developed by Kathleen Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers. A psychological frame as well as a psychological test to understand specific preferences in human behavior, the MBTI provides ways of understanding normal differences that occur in the following areas: how we focus our energy (extraversion vs. introversion); how we gather information (sensing vs. intuition); how we make decisions from information we receive (thinking vs. feeling); and how we deal with and relate to the outside world (judging vs. perceiving).

Each of the words in parentheses has a precise meaning. For example, extraversion and introversion does not mean someone outgoing or more withdrawn. They refer to how we regain our energy when we feel depleted; individuals with higher extraversion scores like to engage with others as a way of gaining energy, while those with higher introversion scores need some time alone to recharge themselves. According to the MBTI, our profiles remain consistent through our lifetime. Individuals who are sensing rely on the five senses – taste, sight, smell, hearing, and touch – to gain information, while individuals who score higher on intuition glean information from their intuition or sense of internal “knowing” that something is true. Thinkers make decisions based primarily on analysis and principles, while feelers base theirs more on values and what they like or dislike. Finally, individuals who score as judging come to conclusions quickly, whereas those higher on perceiving like to take their time before they come to closure. The combination of the four dimensions described above produces 16 different MBTI types.

Comparison: The Enneagram and the MBTI

  MBTI Enneagram
  • MBTI test created in 1962, with roots in Jungian psychology (1920s)
  • 20th century
  • Ancient, from the Middle East and Asia
  • Evolving for several thousand years
  • Western psychological component added in 20th century
  • Four dimensions of personality preferences or orientations
  • 9 different personality architectures, including worldviews and related thinking, feeling, and behavioral patterns
  • Questionnaires with short and long forms
  • 16 different types
  • Test available; most done through personal self-reflection and discovery
  • 9 types, with 3 subtypes each (27 subtypes)
  • Know who you are.
  • Surround yourself with others who offer complementary orientations to your limitations.
  • Appreciate orientations different from your own.
  • Know who you are in your complexity.
  • Honor your strengths without over-identifying with them so you can “break out of the box” that limits you.
  • Provides extensive and precise development activities for individuals of each style in personal and professional development areas
Primary application areas
  • Career development
  • Coaching
  • Counseling
  • Education
  • Leadership development
  • Personal growth
  • Teams
  • Coaching
  • Communication
  • Conflict
  • Counseling
  • Education
  • Feedback
  • Leadership development
  • Mergers
  • Negotiations
  • Personal growth
  • Sales
  • Strategy
  • Teams
    The focus of the MBTI is practical and behaviorally focused.
    Although the Enneagram is practical, it is a map of thinking, feeling, and behavior patterns and emphasizes personal integration; it is also used for transformational work

Many coaches, consultants, and trainers use both the Enneagram and MBTI because they are highly complementary and focus on different but compatible aspects of human beings. In addition, there have been numerous correlations between Enneagram styles and MBTI types. For example, Enneagram style Ones tend more toward judging rather than perceiving, Twos tend more toward feeling than thinking, Fours tend more toward intuition than sensing, Fives are more often thinkers than feelers, and so forth.

What makes these correlations particularly interesting is this: where correlations do exist, there are always individuals of a particular Enneagram style who are different from the norm. What is the inner experience of a perceiving One, given that Enneagram style Ones tend to judge themselves, others, and everything around them? What happens to a thinking Two, someone who tunes into others far more than him- or herself, values relationships and feelings, but then makes decisions more by principle and objective analysis than by feelings and values? Or a feeling Five – Fives automatically and instantaneously detach from their feelings then experience them later. What is it like to cut off from feelings when they are so central to who you are and how you make decisions? Similarly, Sevens thrive on sharing their ideas, eliciting reactions, and interacting with others; while more Sevens are extroverts than introverts, some Sevens are highly introverted. What is the impact of this latter preference on how they deal with the abundant number of ideas they generate? These are just a few of the many ways the Enneagram and the MBTI have synergies and raise interesting dilemmas for individuals.

The potential integration between the Enneagram and the MBTI is vast and individuals, teams, and organizations will be even better served as these applications become clearer and more widely used.

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The Enneagram and StrengthFinders

According to Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton in Now, Discover Your Strengths, if you start with right assumptions about the people you work with and manage, everything you do with these people will be right – how you select, measure, train, and develop them. The two assumptions include:
  • Each person’s talents are enduring and unique.
  • Each person’s greatest room for growth is in the areas of his or her greatest strength.
These assumptions explain why the authors’ analysis of the Gallup Organization’s two-year study of managers concluded that the best managers break all the rules of conventional management wisdom.

Buckingham and Clifton have three evolutionary tools that they say will help us build a strong life: 1) understanding how to distinguish your natural talents from things you can learn; 2) identifying your dominant talents; and 3) building a common language to describe your talents.

According to the authors, talent is any recurring pattern of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied. The Enneagram system helps us find those patterns by looking at gifts of Enneagram style. An example from each of the three Centers of Intelligence could illustrate how this works. Enneagram Ones (Body Center) bring the knowledge of moral and ethical principle and an emphasis on quality and high standards; at the same time, if they overuse this gift and do not see when there are times for compromise, they will be out of balance. Enneagram Twos (Heart Center) bring the knowledge of interpersonal relationships, generosity, compassion, and sensitivity to others’ state of being. If they overuse this gift, however, they can ignore themselves and their own wants and needs and thus be out of balance. Enneagram Sixes (Head Center) bring the cautionary voice (the voice that sees potential pitfalls), the modifying influence, and loyalty. At the same time, the cautionary voice used to the extreme can prevent Sixes from moving into action because they always see what could go wrong. This pattern of potentially overusing one’s gifts can be true for each Enneagram style.

Buckingham and Clifton, through their StrengthFinders profile, measure 34 themes of talent. For example, the Achiever theme explains why some individuals have such an intense drive; Competition focuses on comparing oneself to others; Context looks to the past for answers; Discipline relates to wanting the world to be predictable; Empathy senses the emotions of others. Many of the themes in StrengthFinders are related to the Enneagram styles. For example, several Enneagram styles have an intense drive for achievement, but the drive is fueled by different motivational structures. Similarly, several Enneagram styles are highly emphatic, while several others are not. Again, the Enneagram can help explain why certain themes appear in a profile, but the Enneagram also gives guidance with developmental activities to either reduce or enhance the particular thematic area, whichever is preferable.

The Enneagram helps us identify our personality style in all its complexity and does so from the inside out. Both systems give us a picture of reality. Knowing our talents and strengths and then focusing on them is critical to our success. However, recognizing and developing our latent talents is also critical. The Enneagram provides a way for us to do that – that is, identifying our latent talents and providing the architecture for building our awareness of them and increasing our capability. Thus, the Enneagram gives us a language to understand and explain our talents and gifts and provides an avenue to develop capabilities we may have never even thought possible.

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Martin Salzwedel is a consultant, trainer, and executive coach working with companies across the globe. As the founder of Communications Consulting International in 1996, director of the Institute of Personality Development of the Boston Business School, and a senior consultant of the St. Gallen Group, Martin works with international leaders on executive development efforts throughout Europe, the United States, Canada, South America, and Asia. This has included work for international corporations such as Infor AG, Freudenberg Group, Molex, Visteon, Faurecia, Salzgitter AG, Siemens, Osram, American Express, Deutsche Bahn, Deutsche Telekom, as well as numerous small and medium sized enterprises in Europe.

In addition, Martin uses his expertise as an Enneagram teacher and his background as a concert-level cellist to unearth the full potential in the clients he serves. Martin has contributed to over a dozen publications on communication in leadership, sales, and negotiations, and published the first book on the Enneagram and Leadership in Germany in 2008 with Ulf Toedter, Fuhren ist Charaktersache (Leadership is a Matter of Character).

Martin has also taught at several universities, worked six years as an executive for an international media company, and spent eight years working for an US consulting firm. He began his career as a professional cellist.

Ulf Todter worked from 1990-1996 abroad as director of an international environmental NGO. Since 1997, he has been training and coaching leaders and staff in profit and non-profit organizations through a variety of professional development programs. His key topics include: leadership, self-management, personality development, life and career planning, work-life balance, systems thinking, taking action in organizations, and system constellations. Providing customized knowledge about the Enneagram, Ulf supports individuals, teams and organizations on their way, creating cultures in organizations that will succeed in the next decades.

Ulf works in conjunction with his partner Jurgen Werner and has been a certified Enneagram teacher since 1996 (by Neidhardt/Gallen). He is also certified in system constellations (2002) and Insights (1996), and is co-author of two Enneagram books in German: Erfolgsfaktor Menschenkenntnis (2006 with Jurgen Werner) and Fuhren ist Charaktersache (2008 with Martin Salzwedel).

Values-driven himself, Ulf believes that successful people follow their deepest core values in both their personal and professional lives. They know themselves and the effects they have on others, as well as understand how to effectively communicate and cooperate with others, even with people who are completely different from themselves. As Ginger Lapid-Bogda says, "they love what they do, are good at it, and are easy to work with."

Dr. Hwan-Young Kim obtained a doctoral degree in education from Han-yang University and has been giving lectures at colleges and graduate schools in HRD, organization development, coaching, and other areas of management and human behavior. He earned his reputation by offering programs and lectures on management and leadership training and has been consulting since 1990.

Dr. Kim is a representative of META Consulting, Inc, a professional member of International Enneagram Association, and is president of the International Enneagram Association in Korea. He is also a Registered Corporate Coach of the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches and a Trainer of Thomas Crane's THOC Coaching Program. He now conducts executive and Enneagram coaching to managers in Korea. In addition, Dr. Kim is a neuro-linguistic programming trainer, teaches the Emotional Freedom Technique, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, mindfulness meditation, and more.

He met Dr. Ginger Lapid-Bogda in 2000 and learned about the Enneagram from her. Since then, he has been studying the Enneagram systematically, translating many books and conducting numerous Enneagram workshops. Dr. Kim has recently translated What Type of Leader Are You? (Ginger Lapid-Bogda, Ph.D.), The Heart of Coaching (Thomas Crane), and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook (Dr. John Maxwell).

Samantha Schoenfeld brings her experience and skills as a master facilitator, training designer, and expert consultant with teams and organizations to her work with bringing the Enneagram into business. She has worked with businesses, academic institutions, and non-profits in a variety of training and consulting topics and has special expertise in conflict resolution, for mediated and facilitated processes and in public peace processes internationally.

A certified Enneagram Instructor who teaches for the Enneagram Studies Project of Conexions: Partnerships for a Sustainable Future (Palo Alto, California) as well as numerous other organizations, Samantha is also a partner in enneBusiness Solutions. In this work, she focuses on intact working teams, bringing the theory and practice of organization development integrated with the insights of the Enneagram in the following applications: team building, leadership development, creative problem solving, strategy, conflict resolution, feedback, and communication.

Samantha's work is based on her philosophy and values: Working well with others is, at its best, an interactive, creative process that produces an understanding, acceptance, and respect for ourselves and others, an appreciation for relationships we create, and a responsibility and joy for the world which we share.