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


Comparing Assessments: How to Get the Results You Need

On a fairly regular basis, you can find articles on the Internet comparing (and often taking to task) the multitude of personality assessments and behavioral tests that are now available.

With so many tools and instruments floating around, and so many similar-sounding labels to categorize people, it’s hard to tell how each differs and whether or not they’re appropriate for your business purposes.

When comparing assessments, we’ve found one of the best places to start is by understanding the premise, which is the foundation on which something is constructed. In terms of an assessment, the premise affects what information people will gain from it.

For example, although the HBDI® assessment sometimes gets lumped in with theoretical personality type tests, it is, in fact, a brain-based assessment. Its premise—that we all have a brain, we just each use ours differently—answers the question, “How do I process information?”

Here are three other key questions to consider when looking at different assessment instruments:

1. Is it validated? This will give you clues as to how likely it is the assessment will measure what it says it measures, produce consistent results and get buy-in, both from those who take it and from the organization. The HBDI® is validated in key areas such as test/retest reliability, internal construct reliability and face reliability, while many other assessments are not.

2. Is there a potential for stereotyping or other limiting behaviors? Even with the best intentions, categorizing people as a “this” or a “that” can become divisive and de-motivating. Look for positive models that emphasize personal accountability. For example, with its brain-based foundation, Whole Brain® Thinking shows people that while there are some    areas we each may be less comfortable with, none of us is limited in what we can do—and that means there are no cop outs!

3. Was it designed for business application? The vast majority of assessments were created for individuals and are focused on raising awareness. While there can be benefits from this on a personal level, if you’re looking for business results and ROI, the key is application: Is this something people can and will use every day to drive the results you need?

This gap was one of the reasons Ned Herrmann originally developed the HBDI® and Whole Brain® Model while he was in charge of management education at GE-Crotonville. He needed an approach people could quickly use to solve problems in a business environment, and to get the most benefit, he wanted to make sure it was scalable and applicable to business in ways other assessments aren’t. That’s why he designed the HBDI® to describe individual and team preferences as well as a wide variety of mental processes, from customer viewpoints to corporate culture.

Many companies and consultants will use a variety of different assessments based on specific goals and objectives. Here’s a great resource for understanding the similarities and differences in various assessment instruments and how to get the most benefit when using multiple assessments together.

In addition, several years ago we assembled a panel of practitioners and business leaders to discuss their experiences using different assessments. You can access the recording of that webinar here.




How Do Your Employees Think? The Answer Might Surprise You


Last week we talked about why you should expect difference when it comes to thinking preferences.

Taking it a step further, one of the things we’ve learned from the data we’ve collected is that not only can you expect difference, you can expect balance: Organizations, ethnic groups and any group of a large enough size will have a balanced distribution across all four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model. That’s why we say the world is a composite Whole Brain®.

In fact, our hard data from around the world demonstrates this finding conclusively: If the sample size is large enough—even just 50 or 100 employees—the composite of individual HBDI® Profiles will represent a highly diverse, but well balanced, distribution across the four quadrants of the Whole Brain® Model.

CEOs are always surprised by this. They often think their organizations have a tilt to the left mode or reflect the mental preferences of the leadership team or culture of the company. As a result, they aren’t managing their companies on the basis of the composite Whole Brain® reality of their organizations. Their leadership and communication styles have been either tilted in one direction or too confined for the global nature of the thinking and learning styles of their employees.

Just think about how much it might be costing these businesses, simply because they’re making the wrong assumptions about the true thinking diversity in their organizations. For starters, there is sure to be some degree of misalignment in jobs, training, communication and leadership approaches. But there is also likely an untapped well of perspectives and ideas that could be generating better decisions, solving problems more effectively and stimulating more innovative thinking across the board.

It’s highly likely your company’s workforce is made up of a balanced distribution of thinking preferences. The question to consider is whether this diverse workforce is being managed to take advantage of its potential productivity.

Most businesses today are made up of knowledge workers, and this is true even for those that have a large manufacturing component. In these highly competitive and complex times, production workers need to work smart; therefore, the mental demands of the work are greater than ever. Recognizing, managing and getting the benefit of all of the company’s thinking resources is essential to managing a successful company.

How well is your organization managing its thinking diversity?


Expect Difference: 4 Tips for Valuing Thinking Diversity

One of the concepts we talk about in the Whole Brain Business Book is that no matter who you’re interacting with, whether it’s at work or at home, when it comes to thinking preferences, expect difference.

Sure, it’s often easier to work with someone who has similar thinking preferences to your own. It’s as if you operate in your own shorthand, and you instantly seem to “get” each other. But it’s not always possible, or even likely, that you’ll be surrounded by people who prefer think like you do. In fact, our data shows that difference is more often the norm.

This is a good thing! In fact, a study of teams with the US Forest Service found that when you have difference in a team—and that can be a difference in thinking styles, gender, age or other factors—the team is 66% more effective. And we certainly know from our research that you can get a lot more creative output from a group of diverse thinkers.

The challenge is that the brain likes patterns, so it’s always looking for similarities. When a difference occurs, it’s jarring, and in some instances we don’t always react in a way that’s very positive. But you can change your mindset about differences. Recognizing both the reality and the value in difference is a good starting point.

Here are four tips for getting the most from your own and others’ thinking diversity:

Expect it and plan for it so you’re not quite so surprised when you face it. Awareness can keep you from having a knee-jerk reaction or jumping to conclusions.

  1. Look for the learning you can get from different perspectives: What might you overlook without them? That, alone, may encourage you to seek out differences.
  2. Keep in mind this process requires a mental stretch. If you’re irritated, the other person probably is, too. You both have to stretch to bridge the thinking divide, so recognize what’s happening and cut each other some slack.
  3. Unique is normal—so have fun with it! In nearly every discussion we have with clients, they share stories of how recognizing and valuing thinking diversity has helped them lighten up about it. They realize the differences aren’t personal, it’s just “where she’s coming from."

What are some of the ways you can apply these in your work? Or how about at home?


The SAGA of Managing Your Thinking in a Chaotic World

Today’s biggest cognitive challenge—especially at work—is managing the sheer volume of information and noise in the environment. No matter how skilled you think you are at multi-tasking, what you’re really asking your brain to do is task switch, and there’s plenty of research that shows the brain just isn’t very good at it.

So how do you get clarity and results when your attention is fragmented?

You have to consciously choose to manage your thinking. And that’s where filters come into play.

Clarity requires metacognition—thinking about your thinking: what you notice, where your mental energy goes, what you overlook. These are your mental filters.

Mental filters take the infinite streams of data that are available to you and separate what you notice from what you tend not to notice. The problem is your filters are not freely chosen. Instead, they're put in place by unconscious forces. They work at a level below your conscious awareness.

Once you realize you have a set of filters in place, however, you can make them conscious. You can shine the light of awareness on them, bring them out in the open, examine them and evaluate them.

At that point you're free to change filters. If your current set of filters is creating more complexity than clarity, then choose new filters. The key is to manage your filters instead of letting them manage you. When you do, they’ll help you:

  • Focus attention by pointing at what’s most important for you to notice right now and what you do not need to pay attention to.
  • Make meaning by consciously choosing how to interpret the events you notice.
  • Move into action based on your interpretations with an understanding of the mental demands required.

The way you habitually think on a daily basis—your default filters—can create blind spots that prevent you, your team and your organization from getting what you want.

You can use the Whole Brain® Model to recognize these default filters without judging yourself (level 1 meta cognition). With this baseline knowledge, you can intentionally put new mental filters in place to shift your mindset, discover your options and take action to get results you want (level 2 meta cognition).

There are many filters, and none of them are “right” for all people at all times. As I’ve worked in the field of Whole Brain® Thinking over the past 30 years, I've sorted through hundreds of options. But I’ve found that the following four filters apply to the challenges most of us are or will be facing. You can remember them by the acronym SAGA:

  •  Solving—Question your assumptions, shift your mindset and create breakthrough solutions.
  •  Aligning—Collaborate, leverage disagreement and get to closure even in the midst of conflict.
  •  Growing—Change at a deeper level when internal motivation or external challenges move you toward significant, long-term learning.
  •  Adapting—Flex your thinking and change your behavior in response to challenges that don’t require deep learning.

I’ll be exploring this topic more over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, think about this: Which filter can you leverage right now for maximum benefit?



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.