If you’re interested in the (growing) link between personality research and neuroscience – that’s the way in which we are able to map specific areas of the brain in terms of personality traits – the link below is a good place to start. And if you’re reading this and thinking, you know, that sounds sort of interesting, you probably have your Amygdala to thank… Why? Click and find out.
I guess you’ve all heard of the ‘Big Five’ personality factors, or the five fundamental factors that help to describe most observable individual differences – namely, Openness (to experience), Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. You probably also know that when they are combined in various ways they help to frame all manner of other things like emotion and motivation. I suspect you also have an idea about what happens when you try to break them down into smaller units. For example, that Extraversion is composed of facets that include warmth, gregariousness and excitement-seeking. And that there’s a debate about whether, when you look at all five factors, you end up with 16 ‘bits’, or 30, or 32… But have you ever thought about what happens if you go the other way? What, if I can put it like this, happens before the Big Five?
The Big Two
It turns out there are two higher-order factors. The first brings together Emotional Stability (the opposite of Neuroticism), Agreeableness and Conscientiousness; the second Extraversion and Openness. These new groupings are called Stability and Plasticity, respectively. So what? Well, these two meta-traits capture the two basic human requirements. These are the need to maintain a stable social structure in order to get things done, and what is in some ways the flip-side, the need to be able to cope with change and the unknown (and learn from it). This is quite an elegant distinction as at various times either stability or plasticity is likely to confer a competitive advantage. It’s also useful because it ties in nicely with the action of the neurotransmitters Serotonin (stability and the generation of feelings of ‘well-being’) and Dopamine (plasticity and reward-driven learning).
From a business perspective the tension between maintaining a dependable social structure in order to ensure steady progress and being able to cope with unpredictable change also has a familiar resonance.
Ever wondered if Twitter could tell you something about a person’s personality? ‘Analyze Words’ helps reveal personality by looking at the use of words. It’s based on research connecting word use to who people are. Enter your Twitter name and find out what it says about your emotions, social & thinking styles… Better still pop someone else’s handle in and find out what it reveals about your favourite celebrity, boss, friends or loved one!
… And you do what you are!! I’m interested in different ways of finding out about people’s personality. That’s because personality questionnaires can only take you so far, and to be fair they rely on you having sufficient self-insight to answer the questions accurately, and of course, in being honest about yourself. What if there was a different way of doing it? What if your daily behaviour also said something about your personality? Well, it would make sense, wouldn’t it? Check out this questionnaire by James Pennebaker…
“When we think about other people, we do so in terms that can be boiled down to five discrete personality dimensions: extraversion, introversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness and agreeableness (known as the Big Five factors). A new study suggests that a similar process is at work in our perception of companies and corporations. Google and Apple have personalities too, it seems.”
“A common phenomenon and problem in leadership practice concerns undue reliance on popular fads without sufficient consideration given to the validity of those ideas…” Click on the link below to read a very good review from Amazure Consulting for the evidence on cognitive tests, personality, situational judgement, emotional intelligence and interviews being ‘effective’ predictors of leadership ability.
So what distinguishes the top sales dog from the rest of the pack? It seems that high-performers are conscientious, achievement orientated, have high levels of curiosity, don’t get discouraged easily, and don’t suffer from being overly self-conscious. No surprises there then. However what’s rather more counter intuitive is that successful sales types are more modest than their pushy, in-your-face colleagues (hype and bull(dog) seem to put customers off); and, even more surprising, they are less gregarious. What’s going on here? Well it could be that being too friendly gets in the way of establishing dominance in a sales scenario – and you do need people to go into ‘obedience’ mode to get them to say ‘yes’. Anyone for walkies?
Want to know more? Read Steve Martin’s post on the Harvard Business Review blog.
Have you noticed there’s a Wiki for practically everything, including the highly informative WikiHow. However I think they may have gone too far this time… in this article they tell you how to change your whole personality! Although to be fair, in the final step, they do mention that you may be better off with your old self . Take a look:
It reminds me of those old Monty Python sketches. Want to learn to play the flute? Pick up a flute and whilst blowing across the opening move your fingers over the keys. Next week: how to create nuclear fission using some everyday chemicals you’ll find under your sink.