Still using the Big 5, DiSC or MBTI?
Wake up, we are in the 21st Century!
by Patrick Merlevede

The quest of "Personality" is to find the characteristics of a person which remain stable over time and over context. The reality is that many things do change over time and with context.

How many people will be wanting to say the same things to their boss on a Monday morning as they were saying to their friends on a party, after maybe having drunk a couple of drinks too much?

How many people will act in the same way on their jobs as they act in their relationships? Or act in the same way when they are vacationing...

How many people haven't you heard saying: If I would have been smarter X year ago, I would have done Y? Or "I'll never do that type of thing again?"

The reality is that most people tend to learn from experience and try to make the same type of mistakes. The reality is that people see their "work" as something different than their private lives (and that they tend to act differently, too).

If we take this reality into account, why do we still use tools that claim to measure "personality"? Take the Big 5, the MBTI, the DiSC ?? Is it just because we are conservative? Because "everyone else seems to use them?"

Well, in some cases old things are "fun". I love my Mustang Convertible from 1968. I really enjoy driving it, especially on a sunny day. But I don't expect the safety or efficiency of a modern car from it. I know that it's crazy to drive it on the highway at 100 miles an hour (160km/h).

But who would like to go back to use one of the initial "portable PC's"? How would we think about someone who was promoting going back to such a tool?
(To remember what those machines look like, take a look at a 1977 commercial for an initial "Portable IBM" - and then realize that this machine was much more modern than the "classic" questionnaires mentioned in this article...)

Knowing the limitations of "tools from the past" is something we seem to forget when it comes to tools we use to assess or evaluate people in the 21st Century.

The reality of the concepts behind the Big 5, the MBTI and the DiSC is that they all date back to the time before the 2nd world war - that's over 65 years ago...

Haven't we learned new things since then? Then how come that salespeople are still managing to convince you that 65-old technology is "state of the art"?

Some things that are "dated" are still the core of many "modern" questionnaires:

  • Linear regression was invented by Galton ... who died in 1911 (about 100 years ago)
  • The Likert Scale was invented in 1932
  • Factor Analysis (the "secret" behind the "Big 5") was introduced in Psychology by Spearman , who also invented rank correlation in 1904 - Spearman died in 1945;
  • Spearman's theory of "general intelligence" dates back to 1904;
  • The Big 5 grew out of Cattell's work on the 16PF, which dates back to 1946.
  • In 1963, Norman came up with the Big Five... he had used a more "modern" computer than Cattell to redo the factor analysis...

What's the difference between remaining stuck in the use of such old technology and advocating to go back to the pre-war time where few people could afford a car or even a phone? When computers didn't exist? And forget about mobile phones, or television...

Want to read more on this subject?
I can recommend Annie Murphy Paul, 2004:The cult of Personality: How personality test are leading us to miseducate our children, mismanage our companies and Misunderstand ourselves.

Some of the innovations jobEQ has introduced

  • Forget about averages - look for the differences between top performers and "lesser gods";
  • Forget Linear regression - use higher order mathematics;
  • Forget about "simplifying" reality to only 16 factors, 5 factors or even only 4 dimensions or 16 boxes - the iWAM measures 48 patterns, allowing for 79.766.443. possible combinations (or enough possibilities so that any person who has lived on this planet can be appreciated as unique)

More on iWAM

last modified: 2013/Dec/10 00:06 UTC