The importance of self-knowledge has been acknowledged through the ages and across cultures. A visitor to the temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece was commanded to “Know Thyself” and Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote that “self-knowledge is enlightenment”. Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of the objective world. It is, by definition, subjective and is thus not easily obtained. Sigmund Freud and Carl Rogers, two of the most influential psychotherapists of the last century, theorised that people have a hidden personality of which they are not aware. It is this hidden, subconscious, nature of personality that creates epistemological hurdles and makes self-knowledge a difficult to obtain treasure.
Many different types of psychometric tests have been developed to measure personality or other aspects of the self. These types of tests are used in clinical settings and research, but are also widely used for recruitment and leadership development. Most known tests in the management context are the Meyers Briggs indicator and the Work Personality Index.
The Forer Workstyle Inventory test has been developed to improve insight into the dynamics of personality testing. The testing mechanism is based on the work by American psychologist Bertram Forer and research into personality dynamics by Swiss philosophical psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. ((B.R. Forer, (1949) The fallacy of personal validation: A classroom demonstration of gullibility. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 44(1): 118–123; C.G. Jung (1971), Psychological Types. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.))
This test is structured in accordance with trait theory. A personality trait can be defined as a habitual pattern of behaviour, thought and emotion. Traits are relatively stable over time, differ among individuals and influence behaviour. The relationship between personality and behaviour is the reason personality testing is popular in management, which in essence is aimed at influencing the behaviour of employees in order to achieve objectives. The Forer Workstyle Inventory has been designed specifically with the professional workplace in mind. Within the Forer personality system five major traits are defined:
- Energy (SM)
- Intellect (EA)
- Perspective (FG)
- Activity (IO)
- Amity (STAR)
Each of these traits is closely related to an aspect of personality salient in professional circumstances. For each trait two diametrically opposed preferences are defined that make up the workstyle Inventory, as illustrated in Figure 1 below.
Preferences to each trait are calculated using the algorithm below. This leads to a total of 32 possible personality types, for example SEGI* or MAFO. The five individual traits are outlined below.
Energy relates to the time and speed, i.e. the efficiency at which people undertake tasks. The two preferences within the energy trait are:
- Marathonist: Work persistently to achieve great things over the long term.
- Sprinter: Can can be relied upon to get the job done very quickly.
This trait is a predictor of mental preferences. Some people are very knowledgeable in one articular area while others are more generic thinkers and use first principles to find solutions. The two preferences within the intellect trait are:
- Expert: Bring great depth of expertise to the organisation.
- Analyst: Valued for their ability to find useful solutions among chaos.
Perspective relates to people’s ability to concentrate on one task or prefer multitasking. The two preferences within the perspective trait are:
- Focal: Ability to focus knowledge and effort with great intensity.
- General: Authoritative breadth of knowledge that is valued by others.
The Activity dimension or trait relates to the role people naturally take in a group work situation. The two preferences within the activity trait are:
- Implementer: The person in your organization that people look to to get the job done.
- Organiser: Leadership and problem solving skills on any project.
The closing aspect of the inventory is amity, or the ability of people to relate to each other and form friendships. Amity is indicated by attaching a Star to the inventory. People with a star attached to their workstyle inventory are friendly and supportive team member with a good sense of humour. They are people with a higher level of collective values and are able to empathise more strongly with their colleagues.
The combinations of the eight preferences within the five traits can be expressed as a four by four matrix of work workstyle preference inventories. The typical profession for each workstyle inventory are illustrative of a profession for which these types of preferences are salient. People in these or similar professions with matching workstyle inventory are more likely to be successful than any other combination.
The test outcomes are based on the point score of each answer to the question battery. Each of the twenty-two questions measures a tendency in one particular trait using a five point Likert scale, which translated into numerical values, with “Strongly Disagree” assigned the value 1, “Disagree” is 2, “Neither Agree nor Disagree” is 3, “Agree”equals 4 and finally “Strongly Agree” assigned the value 5.
Certain questions within each trait have a retrograde polarity. The value of the responses is corrected by subtracting them from six to measure the true tendency towards the specific trait. All values for each trait are summed, giving a score for each dimension. This multi-item methodology is used to reduce response bias caused by ‘yea-saying’ or ‘nay-saying’, which is accepted as good research practice in psychometrics. ((Churchill, G.A. (1979) A paradigm for developing better measures of marketing constructs, Journal of Marketing Research, (19): 64–73; Wason, P.J. and Johnson-Laird, P.N. (1972) Psychology of Reasoning. Structure and Content, B.T. Batsford, London.))
After completing the test, the scores for individual traits are displayed below the inventory, for example: “SM(12), AE(10), GF(8), IO(20), STAR(13)”. Where SM stands for Energy (Sprinter/Marathonist), AE stands for Intellect (Analyst/Expert), GF is the Perspective trait (Generalist/Focal) and IO is the Activity (Implementer/Organiser) trait score. STAR is the score for Amity, which is a dichotomous variable.
The energy dimension is measured using a four question battery (reversed items marked by asterisk):
- 2. I’d prefer to work on a long-term project
- 17. I prefer to see lots of small results quickly*
- 18. The journey is more important than the destination
- 19. I like to work on small projects that can be completed quickly*
The type is determined by the dimension score, which for the energy trait can be between 4 and 20. Values smaller than or equal to 12, indicate a Sprinter type while values larger than zero indicate a Marathonist type.
The battery to measure the intellect trait consists of five items, of which the first and last have a retrograde polarity (marked by asterisk):
- 7. I’m confident that I’m a better problem solver than most people*
- 8. I often worry about the future
- 10. Learning new skills is more valuable than using an old one
- 16. I enjoy examining large amounts of data
- 21. I prefer to use my prior knowledge than to learn a new approach to a problem*
Perspective is measured using four items. Items number 4 and 11 are retrograde, marked by an asterisk:
- 3. I need regular updates of everything going on around me
- 4. Most of what goes on around me is irrelevant and uninteresting*
- 5. I prefer to work in a small business rather than a large organisation
- 11. I get excited by the details*
The activity dimension is measured using four items. Retrograde items are once again marked with an asterisk:
- 1. When I cook I prefer to make it up as a go along rather than follow a recipe
- 6. People see me as a leader
- 12. I don’t need a map when I travel*
- 20. I prefer to follow clear instructions rather than develop new ones*
Five items are asked to measure amity, of which only item 15 is of retrograde polarity:
- 9. I have an above average sense of humour.
- 13. People often tell me that I’m funny
- 14. I often tell jokes
- 15. I don’t laugh out loud very often*
- 22. I’m a lot of fun to be around
Of the possible scores between 5 and 25, values larger than 15 are assigned a Star to their personality inventory. Value lower or equal than 15 are ignored.
For an overview of the face and construct validity of the test, please read the analysis.