Lucy’s Kitbag Episode 12 – Psychometrics…It’s all about the Academic’s Model of choice!
Psychometrics have been used in Learning and Development programmes for many years now.
I first came across the term psychometric when I completed a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) questionnaire on an Army Leadership Development Programme. I found myself curious about the tool and became very engaged in attempting to understand my behaviour – I now know this is a lifelong journey! Sadly the Army was not great at organising proper feedback on the outcome of the questionnaire. I was handed the report, given no guidance and left to work out what it meant and how to use the output. This is what happens when a psychometric profile is applied to an individual or a team in an unprofessional way and unfortunately dilutes the impact of what could be incredibly powerful information.
What is a psychometric?
The answer lies within the name; psycho means the ‘mind’ and metrics means ‘measurement’. The human mind has fascinated scientists since we first developed a sense of self and recognised that we tend to behave in certain ways. Philosophers and psychologists love to name their intangible ideas in order to explain them to the less ‘enlightened’ they engage with.
The Greeks started with the theory of the humours; they divided people into 4 categories – phlegmatics, melancholics, sanguines, and cholerics. This view worked several thousand years ago, but not today; today we have a much better understanding of what makes us humans ‘tick’.
In 1921 Carl Jung came along and revolutionised the way we think about people. He categorised people into 4 archetypes:
- The Self – unified unconscious and conscious.
- The Shadow – unconscious mind – repressed ideas, weaknesses, desires – basic life instincts
- The Animus – true self male & female integrated – unification
- The Persona – Latin for ‘mask’ – image we present to the world – social masks we put on depending on situation
Psychological theory began to creep off the psychologists’ couch and into the business world.
During World War 2 Isabel Myers and Katharine Briggs became fascinated in why conflict developed between individuals – they wanted to understand why people get into conflict situations. Their studies and application of Jungian psychology to the war led to the development of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Psychometric Tool. This is what is known as a ‘type’ based tool. A type based tool categorises people into a theory-driven type. The theory is that you are born a personality type and behave in accordance with this type; as opposed to a ‘trait’ based tool such as 16 Personality Factors (16PF), which is based on the belief that our personality alters and changes according to our circumstances and environment and is more context relative than an absolute.
In 1949 Fiske published a study in which he identified five factors which could account for the variances in human personality. This was further developed in the 1950s by Tupes and Christal and the big five model was officially born. Over the years the BIG5 has become the accepted taxonomy for academics to research personality. The BIG5 are:
- Openness to experience
The BIG5 theory led to the development of tools such as OPP Frequent Interpersonal Relations Orientation (FIRO) and Dr Eric Berne’s Transactional Analysis (TA) – Parent, Adult, Child and ‘Games People Play’ (1957).
Little happened in the development of psychometrics in the following years. However during this time psychological theory began to creep off the psychologists’ couch and into the business world. Businesses began to realise that competitiveness was not just the result of lean processes. As the technological revolution grew, competition became tougher. The need to be innovative and to grow leadership capability became just as important as process improvement. The L&D world began to apply psychometric tools in their leadership development programmes. This is about the time I encountered MBTI in the Army.
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As an L&D Professional, I felt I wanted to understand the psychometric world and be able to apply and use the tools both in training and in business, so I embarked on a journey and qualified as an MBTI and FIRO Practitioner. I have used these tools widely in many Leadership Development Programmes and in more recent years team development and team coaching workshops.
I have at times encountered the limitations of MBTI as many delegates respond with comments like “I am an extrovert at home, but an introvert at work.” I struggled with the either-or approach of the tool and had begun to adapt it and use it as a framework to explain human behaviour rather than a psychometric which puts you in a box.
The next generation
Recently I have discovered Lumina Spark. This tool I believe is a next generation psychometric. The creators of the tool have reflected on the history and theory of psychometrics and developed a dynamic psychometric which embraces the paradox of human personality. Lumina Spark has been designed to integrate best practice identified in a range of BIG5 and Jungian models for application in industry. In particular, Lumina Spark has set out to retain the benefits established by the Jungian approach, while using the latest empirical BIG5 research as its guiding light. Thales Learning & Development now have a number of L&D Consultants trained and qualified in the use of Lumina Spark and Lumina Emotion. We are using the tool in coaching programmes, project management events and inspirational leadership programmes. The tool is one of many but is proving to be very popular with our clients.
As an L&D professional I am looking forward to seeing what the next phase of development will be in the psychometric field, and how we can use these tools to help people better understand themselves, and their colleagues, and use this information to become better at what they do and more fulfilled in their careers and personal lives.
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