What is Good Judgment...Really?

Posted by Michael Sanger on Tue, Dec 16, 2014

Good judgment isn’t about being smart. It’s not even about making good decisions. The essence of good judgment is about learning from past mistakes. It’s about applying feedback to the next opportunity so as not to needlessly repeat blunders or continue to pursue a course that just isn’t panning out. It’s about remaining open to reviewing the landscape, and understanding that unexpected outcomes are a real and likely occurrence. Even though around half of our decisions will lead to unintended consequences, that’s not to say we’re only as good as chance in making them. That would mean we could just flip a coin and hope for success. Rather, if we can all accept that each and every one of us brings our own inherent biases to a situation, we can raise our strategic self-awareness to better monitor shifting parameters and readjust accordingly. Judgment, therefore, is less about getting it right, and more about the personal and cognitive characteristics that enable us to recalibrate so as to continuously improve.

Below are three examples of well-known business leaders whose good judgment led to their success.

Alibaba: The story of “1001 Mistakes”

In the early 2000s, Jack Ma, founder of Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba, decided to relocate the domestic headquarters from Hangzhou to Shanghai, the so-called business center of China, and to move the global base to Silicon Valley. It turned out that the environment was not right for the firm. The headquarters in the U.S. took a hit when the dot-com bubble exploded, while the Shanghai office faced the reality of difficulty reaching small manufacturing companies interested in going global (the backbone of their business at the time, of which there were few in Shanghai). The strategy caused distress and dismay to its number one priority, the customers.

“We expanded too fast,” Ma said in an Inc. interview. “By 2002, we had only enough cash to survive for 18 months. So we developed a product for China exporters to meet U.S. buyers online. This model saved us."

With constant refocusing on the customer, and improving each year, Alibaba has become one of the most valuable tech companies in the world after raising $25 billion from its 2014 U.S. IPO. As Ma puts it, Alibaba is the story of the successful firm built on “1,001 mistakes.”

Disney: Why have one, when you can have two for twice the price?

In Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, Richard E. Foglesong explains a scene between Disney brothers Walt (the creative brother) and Roy (the business-oriented brother). At one meeting, there was a large parcel of land in Orlando [Florida] available for about $100 per acre. Walt said, “Buy it!” Roy asked, “But Walt, we already own 12,000 acres. Do we have the money?” Walt replied, “Roy, how would you like to own 7,000 acres around Disneyland [California] right now [if you had the chance]?” to which Roy immediately responded, “Buy it!” Despite the stretch of resources, the business-oriented Roy Disney understood the value of property. They learned their lesson in California with Disneyland. What if they had purchased more? They could have expanded and avoided the tacky sets of shops and stores that sprung up around Disneyland. It only made sense to get as much land as possible so that Disney could have room to grow his dreams and insulate his utopian vision.

Virgin Wines: So it shall be written…

Rowan Gormley previously worked with Richard Branson at Virgin for many years and set up Virgin Wines.

“The lowest point in my career was when I refused to acknowledge my mistakes and believed my own publicity,” he said. “The data was telling us where we were going wrong at Virgin Wines but we kept reading how brilliant we were in the press. I was in denial. It’s amazing how a group of highly intelligent people can get things so categorically wrong. What looks good on a Powerpoint presentation just didn’t do it for the customer. Once we accepted what was wrong, we stripped the business down and rebuilt it and then it really took off.”

Topics: judgment

Hogan Announces GSD Award Recipient

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Wed, Dec 10, 2014

Anyone who knew our late co-founder Dr. Joyce Hogan knew that she approached the business with a singular mandate: get stuff done.

Jennifer_Gatton_copyIn that spirit, we at Hogan are proud to honor Jennifer Gatton as the inaugural recipient of the Joyce Hogan GSD Award. This award is intended to honor the people at Hogan who most closely embody the GSD attitude.

As Manager of Application and Development Support, Jennifer gets stuff done on the daily, and exhibits the values Joyce particularly valued:

1. Having high standards of professionalism.
2. Being alert for emerging gaps, problems, and issues in our products, processes, and levels of customer support.
3. Taking the initiative to fix problems and issues.
4. Being innovative and unafraid of change.
5. Persisting until the problems or issues are resolved and quality is restored and/or the customer is satisfied.

“We’re thrilled for Jennifer to receive this recognition from her Hogan family,” said Ryan Ross, VP of Global Alliances, who presented the award at Hogan’s holiday party. “Not only is she an excellent example of what we look for in our employees, but she’s also an incredible person who is well respected by her peers. Joyce would have been proud.”

Congratulations, Jennifer. We can’t wait to see who gets stuff done in 2015.

Topics: GSD

Three Ways to Fail Better

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Dec 09, 2014


You make thousands of decisions every day, from the momentous to the mundane. Chances are, at some point, you’re going to screw one of them up.

Don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes. In fact, some studies suggest the base rate for bad decision making is as much as 50%. Unfortunately, when most of us are confronted with the news that we made a bad decision, we’re unwilling to admit our mistake. Instead, we argue, rationalize, and try to save face at the cost of time, resources, and the respect of our peers and employees. Here are three ways to fail better:


Some people respond to making mistakes with emotional displays, like the overheated spokesperson in this now infamous Winnebago commercial (the language in this video is super-NSFW, so put your headphones in). Take a breath, count to ten, and remember research shows people who remain cool-headed are more likely to recognize their mistakes and change course as needed.


Some people react to negative feedback with denial and deflection. They may refuse to recognize facts, ignore feedback, spin failure as success, or want to move on. Others are more likely to consider the facts, address their mistakes, and use the negative feedback to improve future decisions. Those who can accept negative feedback are better equipped to correct mistakes and improve future decision-making.


It can be difficult to accept negative feedback, especially when it’s coming from your peers or employees. Resist the urge to tune out all of your coworkers’ complaints, sideways comments, and Monday-morning quarterbacking. People who engage and internalize negative feedback are less likely to repeat their mistakes.

By keeping your cool, accepting blame, and internalizing feedback, you can make sure to maintain credibility through your failures, and to learn from and keep from repeating your mistakes. Want more information about how to improve your decision making impacts your career? Check out our free ebook, Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions.


Topics: judgment

Lying About Lying

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Fri, Dec 05, 2014


There are plenty of morally permissible reasons to lie – complimenting a dreadful haircut, assuring a friend he or she doesn’t look fat, and promising to wear the exceptionally unattractive sweater you got for your birthday are all justifiable deceits by virtue of being polite.

Honesty may be a social virtue, but lying is a social reflex. We don’t flinch when it comes to white lies—especially when we tell them to protect and preserve our relationships. We lie to our friends and family because we care more about them than we care about honesty. But why do we lie to ourselves?

In his article in Forbes, “The Business of Lying (Or Fooling Others to Remain Honest To Yourself),” Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic points out three types of lies we learn as children and carry into adulthood:

1. Lies that enable us to get along with others (white lies)

2. Lies that protect us from punishment (it wasn’t me)

3. Self-deceiving lies (I tried my best, I never lie)

Although the first two are essential to getting along in polite society, the third is potentially harmful. After all, as Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic says, “The more honest you think you are, the more delusional you are likely to be.”

Want to know more? Check out Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic’s article here.

Topics: lying, faking

12 Days of Development

Posted by Scott Gregory on Thu, Dec 04, 2014


As I was running on the treadmill at the gym today, I noticed a sign on the wall that was titled The Twelve Days of Fitness. I was intrigued. Not because I’m an athlete – after all, the only action shot of me in our high school yearbook pictured me lying on the floor, catching a quick nap during gym class – but by the notion that, if I simply did something for 12 days, I might improve at it.

As I thought more about the idea that we have to do something in order to improve, I began to wonder how many of us really focus intently on our development for 12 days in a row, and what the result would be if we did. Of course, 12 days isn’t really enough time to develop a new skill, but it is enough to get a good start at doing so. I think the results might be impressive. Development means we actually have to do something differently and that we have to be consistent about it. And psychology really does offer some wisdom about how people can change, so I’ve tried to incorporate into the following list what the science says about how people best develop. Here are the 12 Days of Development:

Day 1:  Use high-quality assessment as a source of feedback on the activity you want to get better at. Your HR partner might be willing to help. Beware of assessments that provide information on what color your personality is, what kind of tree you are, or the cartoon character you most resemble.

Day 2: Listen carefully to the feedback. Don’t judge it. Don’t explain it. Don’t ignore it. Assume the feedback is true and reflect on what you might do to improve as a result of it. In what ways should you develop your skills? 

Day 3: Clarify your goals. What do you want the outcome of your development efforts to be? What does success look like? We know from goal-setting research that having a clear goal beats not having a clear goal when we are trying to accomplish just about anything. 

Day 4: Clarify the steps you will take to improve. Be specific and be practical. Try to choose steps you could take tomorrow on the job, during the normal course of your work. These steps don’t need to be lofty (e.g., reading the entire 6-volume compendium, The Tao of Donkey Hiking). They could be things like, “Delegate sales reporting for December to Jean.” or “Share my thoughts at least twice during the next department staff meeting.” 

Day 5: Give your plan a reality test. Share your goals and action steps with your manager, your HR partner, peers, direct reports, or anyone else who might have an interest in your improvement. Simply ask the question, “If I take these steps, am I likely to improve in meaningful ways?” 

Day 6: Eat lunch. Ok, this isn’t really one of the 12 Days of Development steps, but I could only come up with 11, so I thought I’d just slip this one in. Besides, all of this development requires energy. You should be well-nourished. 

Day 7: Based on the outcome of your reality test, finalize your plan. Put it in writing. Ideally, share it with your manager and others who have a vested interest in your development. 

Day 8: Begin implementing the actions in your plan. Remember, if you aren’t a little uncomfortable about the actions you are taking, you probably aren’t really stretching your skills. Stretch your comfort zone a little every day. 

Day 9: Reflect on how the actions you took on Day 8 worked out. Did you share your perspective twice during that staff meeting? Did you provide your perspective using cogent points, or did you sound like a blithering idiot? What would other attendees say about your input? Based on your reflection, what should you keep doing in the next meeting? What should you stop doing (clue: the blithering idiot stuff)? What should you start doing? 

Day 10: Based on your reflection, update your action plan. Add, modify, document, and try again. Although development planning in many organizations is a once-per-year event, the best development plans are living documents that are updated often. Don’t be afraid to update and modify your plan as you go. 

Day 11: Seek nuggets of feedback about your efforts. Are your actions visible to others? Are your actions moving you in the direction you want to go?

Day 12: Repeat. You didn’t really think you were going to be fully developed after 12 short days, did you? This actually is the most important step. Development is a continuous loop and an unfolding story, not an event that has a definite finish line. 

I hope you will try the 12 Days of Development. FYI, I’m going to try to follow through on the 12 Days of Fitness, so we’re all in this together. Right now, however, I have to find a nice chunk of gym floor. I need a nap.

Topics: development

Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Nov 25, 2014


Our brains are overloaded.

  • The average American consumes 34GB of data each day, a 350% increase over the last 28 years.
  • That adds up to 11.8 hours of information per day, including 100,000 words of information across multiple platforms (War and Peace is 460,000 words long).
  • People send and receive an average of 35 texts per day


  • Texting reduces our capacity for information retention and recall
  • Overuse of social media (how much is overuse?) leads to short-term memory loss
  • The maximum number of pieces of information a human brain can handle concurrently is around seven

So when it comes to the thousands of decisions that we make every day, our brains create subconscious shortcuts and biases to conserve bandwidth. Consider the following question:

A ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

Most people will intuitively answer, incorrectly, that the ball costs 10 cents. In fact, in a study of 248 university students, only 21 percent of participants came up with the correct answer, five cents. The same group was then asked another question:

A magazine and a banana together cost $2.90. The magazine costs $2. How much does the banana cost?

In this instance, 98 percent of participants answered correctly. When we are faced with problems that are difficult or have an ambiguous solution, our brains purposefully substitute an easier question in order to come up with an answer, even if it’s not the right one. The answer we come up with may not be optimal, but for most situations – choosing, for instance, what we eat for breakfast – it will be good enough. After all, the consequences of choosing a bowl Frosted Flakes over Fiber One are relatively small. Problem is, at work, we have to rapidly respond to dozens of difficult, ambiguous problems every day, and the cumulative result of our choices determines the course of our careers and companies.

Want to know more about how you make decisions, and how you can be better at navigating the complex web of decisions we face on a daily basis? Check out our complimentary ebook, Why Smart People Make Bad Decisions.

Topics: judgment

Judgment is About Making Good Decisions

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Mon, Nov 24, 2014

We make thousands of decisions every day. And in a perfect world, every decision would be rational and deliberate, and every problem would have a clear solution. In the real world, however, there is rarely enough time or information to make a reasoned decision. Even so, it’s clear that some people have better judgment than others. Why? What sets them apart?

In this short video, Hogan founder Dr. Robert Hogan, Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, vice president of research and innovation, and Renate Scherrer, managing director at JVR Consulting explain why judgment matters, and what sets people with great judgment apart from those who can’t seem to get it right.

Topics: judgment

“The Science of Personality” is Now Available

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Oct 14, 2014


People are the most dangerous and consequential force on Earth. Shouldn’t we know something about them?

Personality is a powerful predictor of human behavior – it predicts how we learn, how we work and how we lead, who we love, what kind of company we keep, and how other people see us. But although the study of personality is centuries old, our ability to understand and control personality is relatively new.

Available for the first time today, “The Science of Personality” is a feature-length documentary that brings together the foremost minds in personality psychology and the business world to explain what personality is and how it impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.

To watch the full feature and find more information, visit www.thescienceofpersonality.com.

Topics: personality, documentary

Q&A: Personality and Safety

Posted by Kristin Switzer on Thu, Oct 09, 2014

hard-hats-wideFor companies in every industry, worker safety is a major concern; companies spent billions of dollars a year on equipment and training aimed at creating a safer workforce. Yet, in 2013 alone, 4,405 U.S. workers died on the job. In this Q&A, Hogan consultant Kristen Switzer discusses the missing component in workplace safety – personality.

1. Why is personality important to workplace safety?

For more than 30 years, Hogan has demonstrated personality’s impact on job performance and organizational effectiveness. For many jobs, safety behavior is one of the most critical aspects of performance. Advances in equipment, technology, and procedures have improved worker safety; however, traditional safety training programs are limited in their effectiveness because they neglect individual worker characteristics. An employee may be your best handler in the warehouse due to their speed and accuracy; however, if they are distractible and drop your cargo, they are also your biggest risk. Unsafe behaviors can be assessed using psychometrically validated measures, and Hogan has identified the personality characteristics predictive of at-risk work behaviors.

2. What personality factors are most relevant to safety behavior?

Research demonstrates a strong relationship between personality and safety-related behavior. Hogan’s core assessment used to predict safe behaviors, the Hogan Personality Inventory, is based on the traditional Five Factor Model and is adapted to predict workplace performance. Behaviors that result in workplace injuries and/or safety-related incidents tend to be exhibited by individuals who are inattentive to details and have difficulty following rules (low Conscientiousness); those who are unable to handle stress or cope with uncertain situations (low Emotional Stability); those who have difficulty getting along with others and prefer to work independently (low Agreeableness); and those who are overly outgoing and seek being the center of attention (high Extraversion). In addition, Hogan conducted many validation studies which further support these results and demonstrate that organizations can use combinations of personality scales to predict workplace safety.

3. Most organizations probably do not consider personality when they try to improve workplace safety. How do you make them see the centrality of this factor?

Anyone who has worked around heavy equipment or machinery—refining, shipping, transportation, construction—knows that accidents occur all too often, and most cases, the accident will be caused by the same small number of people. Supervisors and peers can likely easily identify this group of risk-prone employees, who may even be referred to as “an accident waiting to happen”. Traditionally, accidents have been viewed as a result of faulty design and processes, but we are challenging this mindset. Enhancing protocols and procedures continues to play a key role in safety training; however, individual personality characteristics must be considered as one of the primary sources. Think of any recent safety-related catastrophe in the news and you can often recognize a consistent theme among the majority of accident causes: human error.

4. Once the organization has acquired knowledge about the representation of these personality dimensions in their workforce - how can the knowledge be used in practice to improve workplace safety?

Hogan recommends a comprehensive approach to safety management and improving workplace safety. The safety assessment should be included as part of the hiring process so organizations can start with individuals who have a propensity for safety. To assess the current environment, Hogan recommends a safety climate survey which allows the leadership team to identify problem areas (i.e., equipment, supervisor safety attitudes, co-worker safety) and develop safety performance improvement plans. For those already in the role or new hires, employees should benefit from coaching initiatives around their individual safety assessment results and targets. By focusing on individual safety assessment results, each employee understands how their own personality affects workplace safety and they are each held accountable. Building a safer, more engaged culture requires selecting future employees with a proclivity for safety, recognizing risk-prone employees, and providing resources and coaching.

5. Would you recommend that organizations screen for these personality factors in their recruitment process, or is it better to use SafeSystem for developmental purposes?

Performance issues in safety are often related to poor job fit. To improve job fit, safety-related risks must be assessed as part of the selection process. Let’s think about another type of job—a Customer Service role—from an employer’s perspective. When hiring a customer service representative, an employer looks for characteristics which will lead to better success in the role (i.e., attention to detail, stress tolerance, customer focus). Once on the job, an employer can maximize their success through proper training and development programs, customer service seminars, and on-site coaching. However, any employer wants to ensure that the individual has the core personality strengths to be successful from the start. The same is true for Safety. Safety-related behavior is a major component for many jobs, so safety risks should be assessed as part of the hiring process to ensure good job fit. Further, on-the-job training and development programs will be even more successful by leveraging safety assessment data. Procedures, training programs, and even emergency drills are effective at encouraging employees to act safely, but without understanding an individual’s personality characteristics and risks, these programs will be limited.

Topics: safety, SafeSystem

One Week Left Until “The Science of Personality”

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Oct 07, 2014


Only seven days until we launch “The Science of Personality”!

Personality is a powerful predictor of human behavior – it describes how we learn, how we work and how we lead, who we love, what kind of company we keep, and how other people see us. But although the study of personality is centuries old, our ability to understand and control personality is relatively new.

One week from today, “The Science of Personality” will bring together the foremost minds in personality psychology and the business world explain what personality is and how it impacts our lives and the lives of those around us.

To watch the trailer and find more information, visit www.thescienceofpersonality.com.

Topics: personality, documentary

Subscribe by Email