Profiling? It helps get the jobs done.

OK, before you jump down my throat, I’m not talking about racial profiling. I’m talking about good, old-fashioned personality profiling. This isn’t so dissimilar to the type of profiling you have to go through when you enter the job force in any arena or see on TV when the FBI is looking for the newest serial killer in the country. It’s the kind of profiling you can do find the right person for the right job. It doesn’t matter if that job is the most delicate job of finding the perfect babysitter or a world-class data analyst. That’s the type of profiling I’m talking about — and it’s a super skill that can be used for good.

Personality profiling makes a lot of people uncomfortable — me included. It makes me uncomfortable because not a single person on the planet should be put into a nice, neat box. We all have good days and bad days that can extend into unpredictable weeks and months. Hell, I’m having a backlash right now from when my father died last year and suddenly finding it difficult to deal with a few things here and there. This is part of the human condition, and it makes things absolutely wonderful while utterly hellish. (Isn’t life great?)

DISC personality profile

DISC personality tend to have both a high” and a “low” which how far to the edge of the DISC circle your test results lie.

Frankly, I don’t put much validity into any of the tests, no matter how highly touted they are. We all know that the value assigned to you isn’t accurate, and only really reflects the most recent state of mind you are in when they sit you down to take it. Myers-Briggs? No thanks. This month you might be more introverted, while next you might have an excess of energy to burn. (Did you know that right now I’m classified as an ESTJ-A, but I’m a seriously introverted person? How the hell does that work?! And they didn’t even ask me about my adventurous side.)

DISC analysis is only marginally better because the test is designed to find your overall style. It also looks for your “complementary” styles, which comes in handy for a full view of your personality. You can be a direct, conscientious, intuitive person according to their scheme. This means it captures more of your personality when they put you in the specimen jar. But, you know what? It still doesn’t quite get there. I’m often tested as a Di (dominant with influence tendencies), but if chemistry is on the mind I’m all about the C (conscientious) followed by D. So, am I a lab geek or the CEO?! Still, if I had to give people a personality test, this would be it.

But, in the real world, you can’t give people a profiling test.

Could you imagine whipping out a personality test on your first date in lieu of conversation? I might laugh, but most people would not be amused. That’s why we ask questions to get to know people whether for a second date or for a working relationship. The questions we ask not only get to know them on a personal level, but also get to know how they like to work, what they dream of doing, and what they are already fabulous at. This type of profiling tells us who we can count on in what situation. For example, you’d be able to count on me for solving complex problems, but if you just want somebody to empathise about a problem look elsewhere.

It’s situations like these that I like the system that Gregory Hartley talks about in The Most Dangerous Business Book You’ll Ever Read. Cheesy title aside, the method in here is truly killer. It’s similar to the DISC method, but is slightly more intuitive once you get the hang of it.

Instead of looking at a test result, he tells you to both ask questions and listen. You’re not going to just listen to the words, but also the body language. We are all apt at reading people when we put ourselves aside for a few minutes and let what they are saying sink in. Then, you can identify their disposition and their energy. After that, you can pretty much predict how they will react in any given situation — including when getting juiced by toddlers while dressed for a fancy dinner.

And predicting them isn’t as hard as you think.

Disposition Matrix from Gregory Hartley, The Most... p.15

Disposition Matrix from Gregory Hartley, The Most… p.15

For the disposition, take a look at the Disposition Matrix to the right. Hartley uses it to describe the way someone might be inclined to be. It is important to bear in mind that this graph is supposed to be thought of as “on the round”. You can be so selfish you can be nearly altruistic, and so individualistic that you can be collective. This show the flow between selfish and altruistic, individualistic and collective. The diagonal is how much compassion a person feels for a topic to where they can slide to.

This means that a person that is individualistic and on the selfish side has a tendency to think along the lines of “help yourself”, and yet when motivated by compassion, they can become closer to a altruistic and collective thinking person.

To illustrate it, I’ll reveal more about me. I’ve always been poor. I grew up poor, was homeless for a time, and have fought quite a bit to get to this here and now. I’m a “help yourself” sort of person when it comes to a lot on the economic scale. Until we talk about how to teach people how to help themselves. I’m very compassionate for those who are in a similar situation or those that didn’t really stand a chance. When it comes to levelling that playing field, I’m very close to the middle of the graph.

How someone reacts in any given situation is also variable, but pretty predictable. p. 28

How someone reacts in any given situation is also variable, but pretty predictable. p. 28

We all have a different way we react to things and take action on them. But, even the actions that people take are generally predictable as well. Hartley has put actions into a matrix as well, and just like before, it’s supposed to be looked at in a cyclical manner where positive and negative can meet around the back, so can impatient and enduring.

For this graph, do not think of positive and negative as amounts of energy, but rather the thing that gets them going. For example, I work with a lot of engineers. They are often motivated into action by noticing what is wrong (everything negative) with a thing. Only then are they motivated to fix it. Whether they work within the given set of rules (reformers) or chuck the rules all together (revolutionaries) depends on whether they are impatient or have more of an enduring look at the project. The diagonals represent how they connect the dots on any particular topic. Do they see things as a single artefact, or do they string together icons of the story along the way.

As way of illustration, I’ll layer myself on top of the previous one so you can see how the picture integrates. I tend to think positively about things in general, but on the whole when something is wrong (negative), I want to fix it. There are a great many things that I’m impatient with, such as thinking science communication can be done better. But, I am willing to wait and play the game. I would be considered a transformer in this regard. My thinking in both abstract and iconic ways places me somewhere in the middle of the diagonal.

What does all this mean?

This means that if you were to hand me a problem regarding science communication, you’d not hear me complaining about the piece in commiseration. You’d hear me complain, then use it as a trigger to start a slow change. My motivation would be to help others learn science so they in turn can help themselves in life.

See how profiling can be used for a cause of good? Now, go forth and profile yourselves, your mates, and even your next babysitter to make sure you’re creating the world you want to live in.