What is it with psychologists that they want to pigeonhole everybody – all 6 billion of us? Here is just a very small sample of the sort of ‘bump feeling’ that I have personally been subjected to over the years: -
Peter Honey tries to tell me we have 4 ‘learning styles’ including the ‘reflector’ while
Belbin’s theory of Team Roles fails to convince me that there are only 9 roles including the ‘completer finisher’ and
Myers Briggs Type Inventory (depending on which day of the week it was) last told me that, of the 16 options available, I was an ENTJ
Now there is something called the Insights Discovery Full Circle Profile which has 8 segments, one of which is ‘inspirer’.
Obviously the question that we have to ask is where is the evidence that any of this stands up to scrutiny? But before we do that let us not under-estimate the validity of our own conclusions, drawn from our own experiences of actually meeting, relating to and working with our fellow human beings over many years. In my own case (55 years and counting) I can honestly say that, in my entire life, I have never met two identical human beings (even ‘identical’ twins are not identical). Fortunately this personal view is now backed up by what we know about DNA.
Consequently I have my own hypothesis (the theory is as yet untested) that if we took all of the psychological tools, instruments, profiles and tests available on the entire global market, and analysed the make up of every single human being on the planet, we would come to the conclusion that the permutations of personality types available would precisely match the size of the world’s population (just the four mentioned above produce 4608 permutations). We are all different; we don’t behave in a consistent way every day at work; we might not even follow our own preferences (because of the organisational pressures on us) and often we will not be allowed to bring our entire personality to bear anyway (are you allowed to be as creative as you would choose?).
Of course the authors of these products will have concocted their own theories and have testimonials from happy customers to support their methods but what they don’t seem to offer is any evidence.
Having taught and trained many, many people over the last 30 years myself, and as an evaluation specialist, I have never ever regarded happy or smile sheets (known as level 1 questionnaires in the trade) as evidence of anything. Happiness is not evidence of learning and unhappiness is not evidence of failure (learning is often initially painful and starts with resistance). Even if I make participants take a test (level 2) and they can tell me what Belbin’s 9 team roles are does not mean they know what to do with them. Even a level 3 visit (to see if they are applying them in the workplace) might only reveal them putting labels on hapless managers and does not offer evidence that having a defined role, in a particular team dynamic, at a particular time and place, produces better team results.
There is not much point waiting for convincing evidence to be provided either. Even if these tools appear to offer some benefits they could equally be doing some harm; confusing people and altering their behaviour artificially and to what end? The only end that matters is an improvement in the value the organisation can create. Without evidence that points in this direction all of these approaches have no more validity in an organisational setting than an astrologer telling you that your star sign is in Uranus. Moreover, giving people too many labels can send them into a spiral of hyper self-consciousness which inevitably leads to them disappearing up their own black hole. As one of Insights’ own customers from the Nationwide Bank demonstrates when he testifies: -
“I was amazed at the accuracy of the initial Insights Discovery Personal Profile. To now take the exercise a stage further by consulting with peers and customers is excellent in giving all-round unbiased feed-back.”