The Dangerous Pseudoscience of the Kolbe Index Personality Assessment
Hi, today we are going to talk about one of the most popular personality tests around. The famous Kolbe Index Personality Assessment purports to help people reach their highest potential and help companies make the right appointments, but in actual fact it really helps no one. This is because the test itself is based on unscientific notions of human instinct, which can actually end up hampering people from reaching their full potential. Allow me to explain why this is.
Kathy Kolbe is a bestselling American author, entrepreneur and speaker. She has famously designed a number of assessment and performance tests widely used across the world. She is possibly best known for her rather controversial conviction that the abilities of human instinct itself is capable of neutralizing and trumping all learning disabilities. She is also famous for popularizing the term Conation, which is what she calls the faculty of the brain that enables action in accordance with instincts. She is founder and Chair of the non-profit Center for Conative Abilities. The Centre claims to provide training and educate individuals and communities in practical ways to engage conative strengths constructively.
One of Kolbe’s most renowned so-called “contributions” is her Index Personality Assessment, which she really developed based on her perception of herself as “the world’s leading authority on human instincts.” Sadly, there are many others who share this false conception of her, leading some adherents of her theories to even bestow upon her the most bizarre titles such as “Maslow’s successor.” Kolbe, dissatisfied with an IQ-based identification of abilities, consequently “discovered” what she identified to be the “mysterious conative patterns of human behaviour,” and which she claims has been largely ignored by academics. Her point of departure was the idea that every single person is gifted with the innate ability to creatively find solutions to solve problems. She bases this ability in human instinct, which she portrays as innate neurological processes which structure and shape our every action. She claims that the reason small children have seemingly inexhaustible energy resources is because of the fact that they act in accordance with their instincts, whereas if we act contrary to our instinct it is essentially like swimming upstream. Does it make sense to you? Well, let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
The theory claims to be “bolstered by 35 years of scientific research and validation,” but in reality, this is absolute bogus as we shall now see. One of its major problems is that her fundamental proposition is that all people possess equal creative potential — making her a proponent of a kind of psychological equality, if you will. But this is nothing more than wishful thinking that simply has no correspondence with reality.
The problem is that like most fake personality tests, the Kolbe Index Personality Assessment expressly claims not to show you what is potentially lacking with you, but to highlight your strengths and help you improve your levels of confidence, energy and productivity. Thus, in reality the “results” of this so-called “test” is more of a motivational speech than anything else. It categorizes everyone in the world into four different types based on their so-called instinctual or conative types: the fact finder, the follow thru, the quick start and the implementer. These personality types then purportedly determine your natural Modus Operandi, which is supposedly the way you ought to act in order to be true to yourself.
Ironically, the very reason why such personality tests which categorize people into certain personality types remain so lucrative to many people is primarily because it inflates our egos and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It is also particularly popular in the workplace because it is simply easier to attribute conflicts to personality differences than to actually address the issue. But addressing the actual issue is, at the end of the day, really the only way to actually solve problems and progress beyond them.
What the Kolbe Index Personality Assessment actually does, is to try and supplant the very real impact of our environment, background, education and natural talents by reducing everything to mere instinct, as if human beings are solely driven by this aspect of our being. This is of course very far removed from reality. Using this test as a criterion in the job selection process is also completely irresponsible for the sheer fact that the test completely disregards some of the most important aspects employers most certainly need in a candidate like, well, [sarcastically say] maybe skills, experience and abilities!!
Imagine making an appointment to a position based on whether someone’s “conative instincts” make that person a “follow thru” as opposed to an “implementer.” I mean, what do these categories even mean? Do implementers care less about facts? Do fact finders fail at implementing company strategies? There’s a reason why the ideal candidate seems to have a little bit of all four of Kolbe’s categories, and that reason is simply the fact that the test has been designed in a way that those who take it are always pleased with their results — thereby increasing sales, of course! As someone who took the test once unironically noted in an article in the New York Times: “What I especially liked about it was that the results validated who I said I was and how I regard myself.’’
But there is an even greater danger to the pseudoscience underlying the Kolbe Index Personality Assessment: in purporting to help people “understand” their own “abilities,” and in telling people how to behave in order to activate their natural creativity, it actually boxes people in and limits them. Despite all Kolbe’s pretences in terms of helping people reach their potential, prescribing to people how they should behave and what talents they should cultivate can actually have the opposite effect. It can seriously inhibit the development of human potential — much to the detriment of everybody involved.
Sadly, many employers and entrepreneurs have fallen for what is essentially a fake marketing scam, continuing to pay £30 time and again to take this meaningless test online and get its meaningless feedback. Some employers even foolishly require applicants to take and pay for this fundamentally pointless test — often as a way to identify and so-called “serious candidates.”
Psychological realities are so much richer and more complex than can be analysed by gimmicky personality assessments and career assessment exams. The Kolbe test is often simply too superficial to be able to produce any accurate results whatsoever. It should never be used by anyone as a criterium for employment. Not only does this pave the way for unfair discrimination, but it can actually more often than not cause employers to make fatal mistakes when it comes to candidate selection.