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Apple and AT&T: _NTJs and _STJs?

A tale of two cultures….

CNET covered (they really do a very good job) WIRED’s description of Apple and AT&T’s “dysfunctional relationship.” I had a very close relationship with Apple in my Netscape days, and with AT&T’s precursors, SBC and AT&T wireless, when I was with Sun Microsystems (pre-ORACLE).

In high tech, you almost have to “minor” in psychology. :-) Actually, you have to “major” in psychology and “minor” in high tech. :-) Although my degrees are NOT in psychology, Apple “seems” to me to be loaded with Myers-Briggs INTJ and ENTJ types (I saw one article which speculated that Steve Jobs might be an ENFP and I had to laugh. If so, he has been in ENTJ school for a long time! If he is really an ENFP, I’d love to hear from him- even his photo in the article has ENTJ in the filename! Seriously, I have never known the CEO of a major corporation who is an ENFP, since FPs are generally “discriminated against” in corporations.) (Note added July 20, 2010: …but he is a FOUNDER, so it is possible….) I have lived in several (E/I)NTJ cultures – the “shrill” (think “wailing and gnashing of teeth” :-) ) arguments (Note added July 22, 2010: … and WHINING) in meetings tend to unnerve people who are not used to such behavior from adults. :-)

On the other hand, SBC (think “the new AT&T”) seemed loaded with Myers-Briggs _STJ types, with some extroverted ones (ESTJs are known for the creation and maintenance of bureaucracies), but particularly the introverted ISTJs found in the military, police and fire departments, IBM, and telecommunications companies. You might not even hear a response from these folks, let alone an argument, in a meeting. They are very much into “chain of command” and “following orders.” All four types seem to excel at “groupthink,” at least in my experience.

Professional psychologists, please “chime in” if I am way “off base.” :-)

One article I read said that both NTJs and STJs love rules: STJs FOLLOW the rules and NTJs love rules for OTHER people! :-) That pretty well clarified the situation for me! Another thing that the four Myers-Briggs types have in common is that they learn by arguing and that, being TJs, they often require scapegoats (as do most people in upper management, where TJs are selected).

I found some statements in the WIRED article particularly interesting and I present them below with my comments:

“The two corporations have argued about almost everything.” (That’s how they learn! :-) )

“Back in 2007, when AT&T (then Cingular) and Apple executives disclosed the deal publicly, they spoke of a radical collaboration — one based on trust and respect as opposed to the usual dynamics of control and fear — that could serve as a new model for the wireless industry.” (Naive or [surprisingly] idealistic thinking – NTJs and STJs like order, structure, and control. Fear is almost palpable in some of the environments.)

“They have even fought about wardrobe: When an AT&T representative suggested to one of Jobs’ deputies that the Apple CEO wear a suit to meet with AT&T’s board of directors, he was told, ‘We’re Apple. We don’t wear suits. We don’t even own suits.'” (I can relate to this. At Netscape, the “dress code” was “You MUST dress.” :-) In contrast, Sun Microsystems was more “fashion-conscious.” :-) ) (Note added July 27, 2010: I even told one of my managers at Sun that the fact that he NEVER wore “blue jeans and T-shirt” likely hurt his credibility with technical people. He probably thought I was “mad!” But we’re all mad here…. He was an ENTJ.)

“What is clear is that AT&T’s role will always be that of parsimonious gatekeeper, dictating to its customers how much data they can have and how much they’ll pay for it. It is precisely the role the company hoped to avoid, the reason that carriers long refused to give phone manufacturers and software developers the kind of influence that Apple now wields.” (Yes, it is a battle for CONTROL for these personality types!)

Enjoy reading the CNET and WIRED articles. You may as well read one more, in which other cell phone manufacturers “open up” on Jobs for his recent iPhone briefing in which he essentially said that all cell phone companies have similar problems to iPhone 4. Even if the science is correct (I am not saying that it is or isn’t), you can see the territoriality of these “higher primates” emerging. And deflecting the blame to others (or scapegoating) is a time-dishonored tactic of TJs in general….

In any case, the articles make interesting reading, even if you have not spent years in close proximity to the companies involved.

-Bill at

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