Fine Grained Data Rules, OK?

22 11 2011

Taking a client through her Birkman Report yesterday, she made a comment to the effect that all the other tools she had taken recently (and she had taken a whole raft of them) had described her as in some way emotionally detached. That certainly wasn’t the picture arising from her Birkman, nor was it really how she saw herself. When I pushed her on this, it came down to the fact that she was highly-thought oriented; and on most if not all of the theory- (rather than empirically-) driven tools, logic and thought are placed in contradistinction to sensing and feeling. So very thought oriented equates to emotionally detached.

The problem here is a theoretical framework that is too highly-constrained and, in essence, too coarse-grained. Demonstrably separate factors are bolted together at both ends with no freedom to capture reality.

Roger Birkman developed his eleven (3-dimensional) behavioural constructs based upon his observation of beahvioura and behavioural traits. As a result what is so often treated as a single continuum, from Thought Orientation / Logical / Detachment at one end to Emotionally Engaged / Feeling / Empathetic at the other, is actually broken down into at least 12 largely independent scales (4 components x 3 dimensions). So my client did tend to be somewhat direct, and needed a certain level of objectivity from others, but combined that with some intense emotional orientation, a reasonably decisive approach and an extreme need for time to reflect and a reasonably high need to process ambiguity before making important decisions. And, what is more to the point, that is the picture of herself she recognized and could relate to.

Why settle for an image in newsprint halftone black when you can have Panavision and TechniColor (that’s an LCD clock versus full HD movie for you if you are Gen Y)? Fine-grained data rules, OK…

Failure to Brand Successfully: unexpected consequence

9 11 2011

Reading an academic article this morning on what, in non-academic literature, would be called employer branding  (Slaughter, J. E., & Greguras, G. J. (2009). Initial attraction to organizations: The influence of trait inferences. International Journal of Selection and Assessment,17, 1-18). The article highlighted something which amounts in practice to a double penalty for failure to brand the organization appropriately or successfully.

Using the Five Factor Model (“The Big Five” – Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism), the authors hypothesised that each of these factors would correlate positively or negatively to willingness to accept a job at companies representing certain brand characteristics (e.g. Dominance [in their market], Boy Scout [honesty and doing good] etc).

Here is the interesting bit: companies which had negative ratings on the brand characteristics (e.g. exemplified a lack of “Boy Scout”) saw a bigger effect than those who exemplified the characteristic. In other words, if you had the positive branding, you would attract roughly the same percentage of people who had the character trait (hypothesised to relate to the brand characteristic) as those who didn’t. But if you had the negative branding, you would attract far more of those who didn’t have the character trait than those who did.

There may be other ways to read this, but in simplest terms  (and doubtless at the risk of massive oversimplication), the implication could be this: successful branding gets you to the ballpark, but you then still need to identify the people who fit your branding from within your pool of applicants; failure to brand on the other hand could mean that your pool of applicants may not include “the right people” at all.