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Who Are You?

| On 14, Feb 2011

Jack Hipple

In recent discussions about an upcoming workshop for the Management Division of AIChE in Minneapolis, I got into a discussion about networking and the use of psychological assessment tools in assisting employees with job searches and transitions. I guess I am a bit old fashioned as I believe that enjoying and surviving your new position is more important than finding it in the first place.

The ease with which it is possible, with a few key strokes, to find out about virtually any job opening anywhere in the world is truly amazing. Even the old fashioned head hunters are using LinkedIn(R) and other web resources to identify candidates. These sites and personal resume postings tell a great deal about the technical background, work experience, and academic credentials of an individual as well as the technical needs of the position. Obviously these things have to match as a minimum. But people have preferred styles of behavior and organizations have cultures. The words we see so often, such as “team player” don’t tell us much about what’s needed to be a team player. These words also suggest that there is no need for differing opinions. Is this really what an organization wants?

There are well established tools for measuring a person’s style and approach to relationships and problem solving. Though my two favorites are the Myers Briggs (or one of its spin-offs) and the Kirton KAI(R), there are others including Fyro B(R) and HBDI(R). The amazing thing I have observed over the years is that though many people have taken these assessments, less than 10% of the people I meet remember what their characteristics are, and even fewer have done anything serious with the information. I have to ask myself why do people bother to take these assessments if they don’t intend to learn from them?

When changing jobs, when moving to a different job within the same company, or joining an innovation team, these assessments can tell us a great deal about the stresses and changes that may be required to work with someone different than ourselves and how we might assemble teams to accomplish certain tasks. The preferences summarized in these assessments are very hard wired in us and are unlikely to change over time. We can be someone “different” for a short time with some stress, but being someone different for a long period of time is a recipe for personal disaster. So if you’re networking on the web for opportunities, or joining a new innovation team, ask yourself whether what you see and read tells you what the culture is within the organization. Ask yourself if the “style” you use for innovating is going to be acceptable within a new organization ore within the team. If you see and sense stress, then have an open disscussion about those differences and discuss the value of different approaches to problems. Don’t bury the differences–use them pro-actively!