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The magic of categorizing humans
Boxing humans. No, I don’t mean hitting them with boxing gloves. I am talking about pigeonholing and categorizing them and thereby putting them into boxes. I have not been a believer that humans can be thus pigeonholed but in the last several decades there have been several efforts to do so. The popular among them being the heavily flawed Myers-Briggs to the Big5 traits with some scientific validity behind it.
I follow Principles.com where Ray Dalio documents his principles behind the running of Bridgewater Associates, an investment management company. Recently, Ray Dalio along with Adam Grant and a few others launched PrinciplesYou.com a self-assessment site extending the Big-Five concept. And of course, I would try it out. Why wouldn’t I? At least for the fun of it.
I did so and got a report that put me into certain boxes based on my responses. And provided me some sample archetypes of who I could potentially be. An Explorer, an Inventor, and an Impresario, in that order.
Here’s my problem. For many questions context matters. I struggled with several of the answers while answering them. I believe humans exhibit different identities and we exhibit them at different times. At least I have deeply observed that I do. So based on this context, my answers would vary to the same question depending on the situation and the identity that I exhibit at that time.
If I answered the questions as doing my own personal projects it would be different from me as a husband or a father and would be completely different from what I do at work. Even at work, whether I engage with an individual, a team, a friend, or with an executive or senior management to whom I need to upsell, I would behave differently in each situation. And these would change the answers tremendously. That’s the whole problem - behaviors are context and situation dependant.
So, net of it, there is no one set of archetypes, but these are totally context dependant based on the situation. Therein lies the problems in putting people into boxes. These work for some people some of the time in some context and certainly have some value. But totally depending on these to categorize people is a shame, and shows how unwell one understands who humans are and how we function.
A funny story related to this is about a year ago I was interviewed for the position of an Agile Coach by a couple of Scrum Masters of an organization. Not a technical or competency interview, but an interview only for culture and values fit. I was told afterward that they picked someone else because though my capability scores were higher, my culture fit was low. Herein lies the problem with boxes. The purpose of an Agile Coach is to help organization redefine their values and beliefs, and adapt to being something better in every which way they function. And if one had to fit existing values and beliefs and toe the line, then how would a supposed change agent help with change? But this is how the world works. Go figure!
If you are curious please try out PrinciplesYou.com for yourself. And compare it to who you feel you are. (At least the one identity that you pick to answer the questions)