Openforum Introduction

The Openspace Ventures team consists of 24 members from 12 different nationalities. Before venture capital, we came from different backgrounds such as technology, private equity, banking, strategy consulting and media. Every week we get together virtually to “shoot the breeze” in a moderated session on a topic of interest. Sometimes it is core to our business of investing in Southeast Asian technology. Other times it is tangential – either way it helps us to talk it through Openspace style and distill a few more things about our market, our companies and ourselves.

Using MBTI to foster teamwork and collaboration

Moderated by Matt Windsor & Dennis Le

Our firm is only as effective as the teamwork and the collaboration happening internally. At Openspace, we constantly seek to better understand each other and everyone’s unique viewpoints. We value diversity at all levels and believe that healthy disagreements help us make the best investment decisions.

In this OpenForum session, we discussed the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, seeking to explore and put structure behind each person’s motivations and what energizes them, both at work and in their personal lives. We wanted to answer questions like – how do you like to plan – are you more last minute or do you like to have everything to be agreed in advance? Do you get energy from speaking to people or do you prefer to work and operate on your own? Do you enjoy looking more at details or the big picture?

As a refresher, the Myers-Briggs personality framework has 4 key themes and 16 different personality types.

Theme 1: “E” or “I”- this means either you lean more towards being an extrovert or introvert

Theme 2: “N” or “S” – this means either you are more intuitive (prefer big picture concepts) or sensing (like to analyze details)

Theme 3: “T” or “F” – do you address your problems by thinking or feeling through them

Theme 4: “J” or “P” – do you like to be planned (“J”) or do you prefer winging it (“P”)

We started the session with a survey to fully understand working styles and preferences of people in our firm.

Overall, our firm is broadly distributed when it comes to personality types. However, we like to be organized, as evidenced by the high percentage of “J”s. Additionally, we are also slightly introverted and prefer to think through our problems rather than let our emotions get to us. In many ways, we think these results are both a function of who we are and our roles at Openspace.

Though we are diverse in our personalities, the most common types are ISFJ and ENTJ, which are surprisingly very different. The ISFJ type is warm and caring, and always defends people closest to them. As an illustration, the most famous person with this personality type is Mother Theresa. On the other hand, we also have a handful of ENTJs who are bold, imaginative and strong-willed. Two of the most famous people with this personality type are Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet.

We believe that this mix of people within our team gives us an edge in our industry. A few key conclusions can be drawn about ourselves and MBTI overall:

  1. We apply order and structure to our work. Because we have many “J”s in our firm, we appreciate orderliness, timeliness and organization. In many ways, as venture capitalists, we tend to be more “J” because we operate in an unstructured environment. We must constantly juggle different tasks and manage complex problems coming at us from every direction. For example, we may have to concurrently manage an exit, close a new investment in a completely new sector, while helping a founder with strategic decisions. Doing all these things at once requires us to prioritize and constantly problem solve.
  2. A significant amount of us are introverted. This one came as a bit of a surprise to us because venture capitalists have to constantly meet new people: investors, founders or other participants in our ecosystem. While we enjoy the social part of the job, it seems as if a lot of us also long for the days where we can just work in a quiet space and have some time to gather our thoughts. Again, this conclusion merely means that like everyone, we strive for balance in our lives.
  3. We think through our problems rather than react emotionally. As venture capitalists, stressful situations can arise quickly and can be tough to plan for. For example, during COVID-19, start-ups which operate in sectors like travel might see their revenues be severely impacted and their cash runway shorted to less than a few weeks. This event was unplanned for and in cases where our portfolio companies are affected, we will need to step in to help. As an investor, we must react in a logical and thoughtful manner instead of getting all caught up. Our entrepreneurs rely on us for guidance and the last thing they would want is for us to panic.
  4. We pay attention to both big picture concepts and small details. We seem to have a good balance between people who tend to think more of the big picture and those who look for details and in-depth analysis. We appreciate this diversity in viewpoints and look at all of our investments from both angles. We are proud that our firm is evenly split in this regard and believe that this is where an important part of our diverse opinions stem from.
  5. Understanding the shortcomings of MBTI and to preserve our diversity, we believe that personality test should not be used in the recruitment process. We realize that our team members’ personality types change over time and vary in different environments (e.g. different personality types at home vs. at work). As such the MBTI result might not objectively reflect one’s capability or guarantee job performance. Prioritizing one personality over another during recruitment might create a risk of weakening our diverse and creative thinking as a group.
  6. MBTI is a good tool to foster teamwork and personal development. One of the biggest challenges to effective teamwork is the lack of understanding and compassion among team members. MBTI provides a generic guideline on how to interpret each member’s behavior and hence allow teammates to manage one another’s expectation and seek compromise. As each member grows personally and professionally, the firm could also use MBTI as a guidance to help his or her develop balance, e.g. those who are “Ts” to develop more intuition (“N”) or vice versa, or those who prefer detailed analysis to learn how to develop big picture thinking. As Openspace members become more senior in their roles, having a flexible and balanced personality would help them adjust to different situations effectively and perform better.

All in all, our  OpenForum session allowed us to think critically about each person’s personality and what energizes each of us. Being aware of the differences among us allows us to bond, creates empathy and provides leverage for the firm to better develop each team member personally and professionally, fostering balanced and highly effective team dynamics.