Personality assessments in the Intelligence Shop

A few weeks ago I attended an analyst training which included a block of instruction on personality assessments and incorporated that into ideas of audience analysis and how analysts can influence action within their organizations when they don’t have ‘positional authority’ (the ability to kick your ass to the curb or bestow mana from heaven).

I’ve often made the case that such assessments could pay dividends in intelligence shops.   Law enforcement culture (just like the military or other semi-insulated cultures) often attracts and can reward certain personality types over others which can lead to certain norms of behavior and ways to interpret the world around them.  The introduction of civilian analysts who (at least theoretically) are so central to law enforcement operations in this new era of ‘Intelligence led policing‘ means that you are injecting people into the mix who don’t necessarily (and really shouldn’t) share the same outlook, values and norms.  I’m not saying they’re radically different but they’re still going to be different.

Overlay that with differences in individual personalities in terms of what motivates them, how they react to stress, etc. (some of which can be supressed or ignored when you have a culture like you find in the military/LE environment) and you’ve got a whole new layer of complexity in the mix.

I’ve written before of some poor examples of how to handle these complexities which is why I’ve advocated the use of these personality assessments, specifically the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

The training I went to used the DISC assessment however and that has some positive characteristics that might even make it superior to Myers-Briggs.  I’ve taken both assessments and the findings were very similar so (using an n=1, take it for what it’s worth) the two methodologies seem consistent.  The DISC method is easier and quicker to administer and provides a benefit of providing the user with not only a personality profile but an indication of how others perceive the user (although I’m less confident of those results I also thought my results here were pretty accurate).

Where Myers-Briggs is (IMO) different is in providing you with a quick, four letter code to identify you.  Yes, it’s not uber-precise but it’s a good starting place for work in an office environment.  If you know Joe is a ENTJ you can tailor your discussions/products/evaluation to that type rather easily.  You only have 16 possible permutations to choose from and (my guess) you’ll see a cluster of only a few of those types in an intelligence shop.  DISC, on the other hand, uses titles like ‘developer’, ‘agent’, or ‘promoter’.  I like the Myers Briggs a bit more just because you can tease out the broad outlines of the subjects personality by knowing the four categories.  With DISC, the titles don’t tell you much about the personality by themselves.

I am even more convinced, however, that some sort of personality assessment in the intelligence shop really should be a ‘must have’.  We did this assessment early in the training and throughout were able to use it to reign in the dominant personality types (-ahem- me) so others could bring their talents to bear on particular problems.  The real advantage was it allowed us to do so in a non-confrontation (dare I say fun?) way.  So, when I started to monopolize my table, I or other analysts could say ‘That’s what a massive D (dominant) score looks like’ in good natured fun.  It’d remind me to shut my yap and help restrain me from overwhelming my less dominant brethren (to the relief of everyone).

And so…in the interest of full disclosure here at TwShiloh, here is my DISC personality description.

Emotions:  Is concerned with meeting personal needs.

Goal:  New opportunities

Judges others by:  ability to meet [my] standards

Influences others by:  finding solutions to problems; projecting a personal sense of power

Value to the organization:  avoids ‘passing the buck'; seeks new or innovative problem-solving methods

Overuses:  control over people and situations to accomplish his or her own results

Under pressure:  words alone to complete tasks; is belligerent if individualism is threatened or challenging opportunities disappear

Fears:  boredom; loss of control

Would increase effectiveness through:  patience, empathy; participation and collaboration with others; follow-through and attention to quality control

Developers tend to be strong-willed individualists, continually seeking new horizons.  As self-reliant, independent thinkers, they prefer to find their own solutions.  Relatively free of the constraining influence of the group, Developers are able to bypass convention and often create innovative solutions.

Although they most often use direct, forceful behavior, Developers can also shrewdly manipulate people and situations.  When required to participate with others in situations that limit their individualism, Developers tend to become belligerent.  They are persistent when pursuing the results they desire and will do whatever is necessary to overcome obstacles to success.  In addition, they have high expectations of others and can be critical when their standards are not met.

Developers are most interested in achieving their own goals.  Opportunities for advancement and challenge are important to them.  By focusing on results, they may lack empathy or seem uncaring by dismissing others’ concerns.

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