The Whole Brain® Blog Blog focusing on the HBDI and the brain


How Do Assessment Instruments Compare?

When we talk to people about the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®), a few questions invariably come up:

  • Does the HBDI® measure the same thing as [XYZ] assessment?
  • How is the HBDI® profile different from [XYZ] profile?
  • Can the HBDI® be used along with [XYZ]?
  • If we use an additional assessment, will it confuse people?

Understanding the premises of different assessments can help answer these questions. A premise is the foundation on which something is constructed, and it affects what information the person will gain from the assessment.

Common premises include:

  • A thinking preferences brain-based assessment considers: “How do I process information?” (The HBDI® is a brain-based assessment.)
  • A talent/interest/career assessment considers: “What are my natural talents and interests?”
  • A psychologically based assessment considers: “What does this mean about me?”
  • A behavior-based assessment considers: “How do others perceive me?”

While each type of assessment provides unique information, there are also some similarities between different assessments. Be aware that using multiple assessments can create confusion if you don’t provide a clear explanation, especially since some use similar colors, letters, names or numbers. And ultimately, even though there is some overlap, assessments based on different premises will have limited compatibility with each other because each provides information that describes the person in the language and terminology of its premise.

This doesn’t mean assessments can’t be used together. It just means you need to make sure people understand what they’re gaining from each and how they can apply this information in a business context. Because most employees are going to be more interested in how they can apply the information and less concerned about the differences and similarities.

To make sure you and your employees get the application and outcomes you’re looking for, start with these key questions:

  1. Does the information pigeonhole people, or does it show them they can stretch outside their self-imposed limits? When an assessment reveals potential instead of boundaries, there are no cop-outs or excuses—people understand they have the power and personal accountability to go beyond their blind spots. It’s also a more positive learning experience that avoids perpetuating stereotypes.
  2. Was the assessment originally designed and intended for problem solving in business, or is it more of an awareness-raising tool? While an awareness-raising tool can be interesting and helpful on a personal level, application is where the rubber meets the road. If people don’t see the connection to business and aren’t using the concepts in their daily work, you won’t get the Return on Intelligence®.
  3. Is it validated? Many assessments make a sudden, high-profile splash on the scene only to disappear just as quickly, often because they don’t have the validity to back them up. Key areas of validation to look for are test/retest reliability, face validity and internal construct reliability.
  4. Is it scalable and broadly applicable, with the ability to describe things like processes, viewpoints and other business issues? The more ways it can be used as a way of doing business, the faster it will become part of the culture—and the greater the positive impact on the organization.

The differences and similarities are important, but remember, the more time spent on application, the greater the likelihood the assessment information will be used. Without application, there’s little benefit.

What do you look for in selecting an assessment?


It’s Time to Rethink Your Team Performance Model

Teams have become the driving force in many organizations today. We’re relying on their collective intelligence to solve problems faster, come up with more innovative ideas and deliver higher quality results in less time. But as we all know from our own team experiences, it’s not as simple as just bringing people together.

While many of the traditional activities and behavioral models designed to enhance teamwork and collaboration “make us feel good,” as Margaret Neale, professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, points out, “What they don't do is improve team performance.”

In fact, according to a survey of 1,000 employees in the UK, they often “only succeed in leaving staff feeling more awkward about dealing with their colleagues.”

With knowledge workers, you can’t develop and maintain an exceptional, consistently high-performing team without focusing first on what drives the team’s behaviors and actions at the root level: thinking.

On September 10th, Herrmann International’s Product Development Director, Kevin Sensenig, will be sharing a new model of team performance that will help your organization focus in on the critical thinking factors that affect a team’s productivity, work processes and collaborative approach—those key issues that will make or break their success.

In a free interactive webinar for HRDQ-U, he’ll demonstrate practical tools and think-centered methods to help teams tap into their full brainpower. He’ll also discuss some of the strategies companies like Caesars Entertainment and Microsoft Game Studios are using to assemble the most effective teams for tackling tough business problems.

With a recent study showing that nearly seven in ten workers have been part of a dysfunctional team, it’s clear the traditional teambuilding models aren’t doing their job.

Join Kevin on the 10th to learn a team performance model that’s designed specifically for delivering business results in today’s complex environment.

HRDQ Webinar: A New Model of Team Performance: Optimizing Team Brainpower for Maximum Results

September 10, 2014 at 2:00 PM EDT

Register Now.


Recent News on Thinking and the Brain

Your monthly round-up of news from the world of thinking and learning:

  • Tracking memory at the speed of thought. Just how much information can you store in your brain? New research methods that monitor memories in near real time are helping scientists get a better sense of the brain’s capacity limits. “People can only think about a couple of things at a time,” says one of the researchers, “and they miss things that would seem to be extremely obvious and memorable if that limited set of resources is diverted elsewhere.”
  • Could the end of boredom be bad news for creativity? Digital devices have made it easy to avoid boredom, but at what cost? Bored people have the opportunity to connect with their idle thoughts, daydream and let their minds wander. And recent research published in the Creativity Research Journal suggests that bored people come up with more ideas, and more creative ones, than others do.
  • Slow down your brain’s aging by picking up another language. Being bilingual doesn’t just help you become a more well-rounded person. New research suggests that the brains of bilingual people age more slowly than others’ and that bilngual people have “better baseline cognintive functions” as they age.

Find more news in this month’s BrainBytes® Newsletter, including:

HBDI® Certification Workshops: July 22-24, New York, NY; August 12-14, Memphis, TN


Commencement Advice for Everyone: How to Really Use Your Brain to Get Ahead

Whether you’re just entering the workforce, looking to get ahead or simply feel stuck in a rut, here’s some advice for using your brain—all of it—to make the most of what you do, day in and day out.

1.   Where do you fit? Find the clues in your thinking.

Think about the subject you did best in—the one you really excelled in, that was easy and fun, and always held your attention. Now think about the subject you did the worst in, the one you dreaded.

Now contemplate trying to get a PhD in both.

It isn't that you couldn't, but you would obviously get your doctorate in one of them sooner, more easily, and at a higher level of academic achievement.

Because thinking preferences impact what you’re most interested in—the kinds of activities you enjoy the most—people tend to gravitate towards and excel in occupations that allow them to exercise those preferences.

And although we’re talking about preferences, not competencies, there is usually a correlation between the two. After all, if you find these activities highly stimulating, you’ll likely look for every opportunity to spend your time and focus on them, and as a result, you’ll build up strong competencies in these areas.

The fields and functions that align most closely with your preferences will ultimately be the most fulfilling, and you’ll be well equipped to succeed in them. They’ll make you feel energized, engaged and motivated. They won’t necessarily be easy, but you’ll be up for the challenge.

 2.   Align when you can, but realize perfect alignment is rare.

Particularly if you’re just starting out, you may not be able to find work that fits within the “sweet spot” of your preferences. And even if you do, it’s almost certain there will be some tasks that require you to engage in the kinds of thinking you actively avoid.

The good news is, you have access to your entire brain, not just the areas you prefer. It’s going to take more energy and skill to get through those tasks, but with effort and motivation, you can stretch your thinking and succeed outside your comfort zone.

If possible, work with your manager on ways to rethink the tasks or come up with potential job aids, training and coaching to help. You might even find you’re pretty good at some of the tasks you hate!

3.   Look for the gift in the stretch.

Career progression and work opportunities bring a full range of competency options into view, and as part of this process, many people realize that though they have performed well at certain tasks and jobs, they didn’t really like them.

That discovery can have a profound impact on the direction you take in your career and life—if you pay conscious attention to it. Misalignment early in your career can be a gift that helps you figure out what your fit really is.

4.   Don’t look just to your job to fulfill your sense of satisfaction.

When you align your passion with what you do, you’ll have more energy and feel more fulfilled in your life. That doesn’t mean your only option is to find it in your work. If today’s job doesn’t make your heart sing, find a way to bring more of those activities into your life and to guide your thinking about the future.

The learning process doesn’t end after graduation. Fortunately, the best tool to help you continually grow and succeed is always with you: your whole brain. Don’t waste a bit of it!

Looking for more? In this brief video learning segment, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares some tips for anyone who is looking to use their head to get ahead.


Recent News on Thinking and the Brain

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 Some food for thought from the world of thinking this month:

  • You’ve seen it, and now you can’t unsee it. Recent research sheds new light on how optical illusions “rewire” your brain. “You're not only seeing what is actually before you; you're seeing what your brain is telling you is there.” As these images show, what you know influences what you see.
  • The critical role of “learning by thinking” in performance improvement. Learning by doing has traditionally been the focus of research on how to improve performance, productivity and progress over time. But researchers at Harvard Business School are making the case that reflection—“the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract and articulate the key lessons taught by experience”—is a critical component of learning.
  • Just one more way advertisers are tricking your brain. From “rethink possible” to “spread the happy,” turning adjectives into nouns is a popular trend in advertising—and with good reason. Similar to the effect metaphors have on your brain, this grammatical trick of “nouning adjectives” is a form of bisociation, which can create striking insights and images. “Bisociation tickles your brain, and that's just what marketers want to do.”
  • Come on, get happy. Happiness may not be all in your mind, but the way we view the world and frame our lives is a product of our mindsets. Here are some ways you can retrain your brain for a happier existence.

Find more news in this month’s BrainBytes® Newsletter, including:


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Build Your Thinking Agility with “Strategy at the Speed of Thought”

It’s one of the top priorities and concerns we’re hearing across industries and professions: To keep today on track and stay ahead of the pace of business, you have to find a way to sharpen your short-term focus while maintaining a strategic eye on the long-term view.

At the New Jersey Human Resource Planning Group’s event on May 15th, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi will show participants how to build their thinking agility so they can better manage their strategic and talent plans for success both today and tomorrow.

Ann will demonstrate an easy-to-apply, brain-based framework for quickly analyzing business objectives and their human capital implications, and for identifying and managing the diverse cognitive resources needed to create and execute high-value strategies.

This is a great opportunity for New Jersey-area HR professionals—whether you are an internal or external practitioner—to learn how to take advantage of all the brainpower available to you so you can synthesize wide-ranging issues and maintain a strategic mindset.

And there’s an added bonus: All participants will have a post-event opportunity to complete the HBDI® assessment and receive a complimentary personalized HBDI® Profile and application debrief—a $300 value!

NJHRP offers a variety of options for both members and guests to receive a reduced rate on attending this event. Check out their website for more information and to register.

Event Details:

The New Jersey Human Resource Planning Group presents
STRATEGY AT THE SPEED OF THOUGHT: 4 Steps to Building Your Thinking Agility
Featuring Ann Herrmann-Nehdi

Date: Thursday, May 15, 2014
8:00am – 8:45am Registration, Continental Breakfast, Networking
8:45am - 12:00pm Program
12:00 - 1:00pm Lunch

Location: Bridgewater Marriott
700 Commons Way
Bridgewater, NJ 08807

Register now.


Managing Up? Meet Them Where They Think!

A big project deadline is looming. You’ve put specific checks and balances into a plan—reminders and tasks for hitting each milestone in a clear, linear process that leads to the end point—and your manager seems to ignore it all.

Every call and discussion seems to go over. Every meeting runs late. The calendar is a mess.

So while you’ve parceled out plenty of time for the work to be completed well in advance of the deadline, nothing gets done until the last minute. You’re left scrambling, putting out fires, feeling like all that prep work has been wasted.

Not only that, this same scenario plays out over and over and over again. No matter how detailed the plan, how well organized the timelines and priorities, it’s always a last-minute mad dash to the finish line.

Your manager isn’t trying to deliberately sabotage your efforts. More than likely, the problem is that you’re setting up a productivity system that is perfectly designed for the way you prefer to think and get your work done—and one that’s completely misaligned with your manager’s thinking preferences.

Thinking preferences play a big part in how we work best. Some—those with stronger A- and B-quadrant preferences—tend to be most productive when they have a clearly organized routine and a plan with every step in place to keep them on track towards the end goal. Those with C- and D-quadrant preferences often work better by taking a step back, looking at the big picture and connecting with the pulse of the office before putting it down on paper. They know the deadlines they have to meet, but how they will get there isn’t set in stone.

Neither approach is right or wrong; it’s about what works best for the individual.

Carson Tate of Working Simply, who has conducted extensive research on cognitive style and knowledge-worker productivity, points out that managers and their direct reports often have different thinking preferences, and this can lead to miscommunication, frustration and ineffective work flow processes.

The good news is, once you recognize there are differences, you can start to use thinking in a way that works to both of your advantages.

Here’s an example Carson shared with us from her own work:

Jane, has a high preference for C-quadrant thinking, and her assistant, Sue, has a high preference for the B quadrant. Sue used to block time on Jane’s calendar for her to complete work, but Jane would instead walk around the office connecting with folks or call a client. Jane was always late to meetings and was consistently missing deadlines—all things that drove Sue crazy.

As we coached Jane and Sue, they began to see how their cognitive styles were impacting their daily work and how each of their preferences, when leveraged, could enhance their overall productivity.

Today, Sue acts as a liaison for Jane and coordinates all of her meetings with colleagues, leaving ample buffer time for the meetings to run long. She color-codes all of Jane’s incoming email messages so it’s easy for Jane to focus on the top priority items. Jane sits down with Sue once a week to review and plan the upcoming week and diligently carries her receipt folder on every business trip.

Whether you’re managing up, down or across the organization, everyone is ultimately trying to get to the same place. If you meet each other where you think, you can get there with a lot less frustration and confusion.

Have you noticed how thinking preferences affect your work processes or those of your manager? What are some of the ways you’ve adapted your processes to increase your collective productivity?


4 Steps to Developing the Thinking Agility of Today’s and Tomorrow’s Leaders

We have to be faster. We have to be more flexible. We have to constantly balance the long term and the short term, and quickly rearrange what we’re doing and how we’re structured to deal with today’s and tomorrow’s big challenges.

The question is:

How will you adapt? 

Find out how thinking agility—the ability to consciously shift your thinking when the situation requires it—can provide the antidote to an increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. 

Whether you’re responsible for developing leaders, are a leader or aspire to be one, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi’s recent webcast for, 4 Steps to Developing the Thinking Agility of Today’s and Tomorrow’s Leaders, will give you strategies and actions you can immediately put into practice to claim the thinking space necessary to adapt and be more agile every day.

Here’s what one participant had to say about the webinar:

This was EXCELLENT! I love webinars that share a little bit of knowledge along with a lot of action items and resources in an organized fashion.

View the webinar and then share with us:

What are the few critical competences your organization needs to focus on to help people get mentally “unstuck” so they can adapt?


Leaders Not Listening? Use Your Head if You Want to Be Heard

I often hear business people say they’re having a hard time getting a “seat at the table.” Or they’re concerned that the leadership team isn’t “getting” their ideas or acknowledging the improvements they’ve made.

This struggle to prove the business value of what we’re doing is often rooted in a tendency to speak from our own thinking preferences rather than adjusting for the needs and expectations of senior business leaders.

And when it comes to how senior leaders think, some clear patterns have emerged. Our data has consistently shown that most C-level leaders have natural preferences that span the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model. That means if you want to build your credibility and get your ideas heard, you need to cover all the thinking bases:

  1. Make sure you have the facts that support your argument, idea or position. They expect data to back it up, and they’ll want to know things like, What are the technical aspects? Have we done the research? How do these numbers compare to our previous benchmarks?
  2. Do your homework and anticipate those little details that senior leaders always seem to bring up. What about timing? Is there a plan? A process? They’ll want to know they can count on you, and that you’ve thought through potential risks.
  3. Take steps to build rapport and show them what you stand for—even if that’s not something you feel naturally comfortable doing. They want to understand where you’re coming from and feel they can trust you.
  4. Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Context is critical for satisfying their strategic mindset. They’ll want to know: What does this mean for the long term? How does it fit into the overall strategy?

Leaders are looking at all of these areas, so they’re expecting you to have done this thinking work before you come to them. During the process, you might even find that you’re not quite ready to make the pitch — that waiting until you have more facts or a better strategic fit, for example, will make for a better case.

It takes a little advance preparation, but if you spend that time on the front end, you’ll have a better chance of making an impression and getting the response you’re looking for in the long run.

Watch this brief video to learn more about C-level thinking.


It’s Brain Awareness Week!

March 10th through the 16th is Brain Awareness Week (BAW), the global campaign to increase public awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research. You can find plenty of activities and resources on brain-related topics on the official BAW website.

For quick tour of the brain’s four thinking preferences, click on the image below and watch as Ann Herrmann-Nehdi explains how you can apply what we know about thinking and the brain to be more effective at work.