Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Personality Profiling : As simple as two plus two!?

Personality profiling is an evergreen business. Human beings find other human beings difficult to understand. And, those who bother to think about it, find themselves to be even more difficult to understand. So, if there is a 'scientific-looking tool' that can enable us to map ourselves and others into some sort of  predefined categories with 'precise-looking' characteristics and consequences, it reduces our (existential) anxiety and gives us a feeling of being in control. 

Now, there are all kinds of personality profiling tools. Almost every one would claim that their tool is the best (and an unadulterated blessing to mankind) and that the other tools are so seriously flawed that they can corrupt young (and old) minds and even souls! Though the validity and  usefulness of these tools are doubtful, I am very much certain that personality profiling tools can provide amusement and pleasant diversion from the unpleasant realities of work! Since, I have always aspired to be some sort of a 'Corporate Court Jester' (see 'OD Managers and Court Jesters' for details), how can I resist the temptation to jump into the business of personality profiling - at least for comic relief?!

My personal preference is for tools that are more like 'straws in the wind' - simple things that can give an indication regarding the direction of the wind (personality).I also know that when we give people an ambiguous question, people will project their own meanings into it and hence their answers would reveal quite a bit about their personality. Actually, this is similar to what happens in a human process lab where an unstructured situation is deliberately created so that participants will project their 'here and now' reality into it (say, in their attempts to structure the situation) which in turn can serve as a mirror for the underlying feelings and thoughts. All this led to the creation of the 'two plus two' personality profiling tool.

So, what is this '2 + 2' personality profiling tool? 
  • 2+2 profiling aims to highlight some aspects of the occupational personality of the individuals concerned based on how they will answer the question ‘What is two plus two?’
  • 2+2 profile is more of a ‘caricature’ and it is not intended to a ‘portrait’ of the individual
  • 2+2 profiling is intended to be a joke (with a grain of truth)
  • 2+2 profiling won’t work on people who have a mathematical approach to life (See ‘A mathematical approach to HR’ for details).
Since this is a 'caricature' of the personality, directly asking the question "What is two plus two' won't work. If we want to get an interesting answer, we have to ask people to answer the question "What is two plus two?'  in such a way that it reflects some prominent aspect of their occupational personality. However, considering the fact that we are better at making caricatures of others as compared to making caricatures of ourselves (and that many of us are likely to have an overly positive image of ourselves), it might be even better to ask  people to indicate how different members of their team are likely to answer this question in a way that it reflects the most prominent aspect of occupational personality of those team members.

Now let us look at some of the possible answers. Of course, many more are possible!

  1. Why do want to know? Why are you asking me? Who told you that I know the answer? What will you do with this information?
  2. Before we can answering this question, we need to have a detailed discussion on 'What is addition?'
  3. The answer can be 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 or 22 depending on the organization culture!
  4. Both the 2s are my family friends. Let me tell you long stories about my last 4 meetings with them. By the way, since both of them are family friends, it won’t be proper for me to add them!
  5. What do you want the answer to be? You can choose the answer you like and I can help you to convince others that it is the right answer

Is there anything at all that you can infer from the answers about the people involved? Can you think of any modifications to the tool ? What about possible applications for the tool? For example, can we do some sort of a team building activity using this tool? (This could involve asking the team members to write down different answers to the above question so as to highlight key personality characteristics of themselves and of each of the other team members. Then each person can look at the various answers that others have written to highlight his/her personality characteristics and try to infer what could be the underlying personality characteristics. May be, they will learn something useful about themselves or at least about perceptions others have about them). What do you think?