Mythbusters Series: Brainstorming is Productive

Posted by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic on Fri, Mar 27, 2015

To grow and innovate, organizations have to come up with creative ideas. At the employee level, creativity results from a combination of expertise, motivation, and thinking skills. At the team level, it results from the synergy between team members, which allows the group to produce something greater than the sum of its parts.

The most widely used method to spark group creativity is brainstorming, a technique first introduced by Alex Osborn, a real life “Mad Man,” in the 1950s. Brainstorming is based on four rules: (a) generate as many ideas as possible; (b) prioritize unusual or original ideas; (c) combine and refine the ideas generated; and (d) abstain from criticism during the exercise. The process, which should be informal and unstructured, is based on two old psychological premises. First, that the mere presence of others can have motivating effects on an individual’s performance. Second, that quantity (eventually) leads to quality.

Osborn famously claimed that brainstorming should enhance creative performance by almost 50% versus individuals working on their own. Yet after six decades of independent scientific research, there is very little evidence for the idea that brainstorming produces more or better ideas than the same number of individuals would produce working independently. In fact, a great deal of evidence indicates that brainstorming actually harms creative performance, resulting in a collective performance loss that is the very opposite of synergy.

A meta-analytic review of over 800 teams indicated that individuals are more likely to generate a higher number of original ideas when they don’t interact with others. Brainstorming is particularly likely to harm productivity in large teams, when teams are closely supervised, and when performance is oral rather than written. Another problem is that teams tend to give up when they notice that their efforts aren’t producing very much.

But why doesn’t brainstorming work? There are four explanations:

  • Social loafing: There’s a tendency – also known as free riding – for people to make less of an effort when they are working in teams than alone. As with the bystander effect, we feel less propelled to do something when we know other people might do it.
  • Social anxiety: People worry about other team members’ views of their ideas. This is also referred to as evaluation apprehension. Similarly, when team members perceive that others have more expertise, their performance declines. This is especially problematic for introverted and less confident individuals.
  • Regression to the mean: This is the process of downward adjustment whereby the most talented group members end up matching the performance of their less talented counterparts. This effect is well known in sports – if you practice with someone less competent than you, your competence level declines and you sink to the mediocrity of your opponent.
  • Production blocking: No matter how large the group, individuals can only express a single idea at one time if they want other group members to hear them. Studies have found that the number of suggestions plateaus with more than six or seven group members, and that the number of ideas per person declines as group size increases.

Given brainstorming’s flaws, why is the practice so widely adopted?

There are two main reasons. First, with the increased specialization of labor, organizations see that expertise is distributed among their employees. If problem-solving benefits from different types of knowledge, assembling the right combination of people should, in theory, increase the amount of expertise in the room and result in better solutions being proposed. However, in practice, this approach would require careful selection of individuals and painstaking coordination of their efforts. Second, even though groups don’t generate more or better ideas, brainstorming is arguably more democratic than the alternatives, so it can enhance buy-in and subsequent implementation of the ideas generated, regardless of the quality of those ideas.

Ultimately, brainstorming continues to be used because it feels intuitively right to do so. As such, it is one more placebo in the talent management cabinet, believed to work in spite of the clear absence of evidence. So go ahead, schedule that brainstorming meeting. Just don’t expect it to accomplish much, other than making your team feel good.

This post originally published by the Harvard Business Review on March 25, 2015. View article.

Topics: mythbusters, brainstorming

How to Avoid Setting Off Your Boss

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Mar 26, 2015


Most of us have had a bad boss, whether a micromanager who constantly looked over your shoulder or a walking landmine whose attitudes would change on a dime. Unfortunately, career success depends as much, if not more, on your ability to get along with your boss as it does on actual talent or job performance. But what if you could use your bosses’ terrible qualities to your advantage?

“Managers are just like any other human: unique but predictable; complex, until you realize what makes them tick,” said Hogan CEO Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. “The best way to get along with your bosses is to profile them. Figure out who they are, what they want, and why they behave the way they do. Then, adjust your behavior to fit with their style.”

Hogan’s new dark side website,, gives users the ability to select their bosses’ dark side characteristics and see how to modify their behavior to avoid setting them off. Check it out at

Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, derailment, derailers

Mythbusters Series: The Great Chain of Being

Posted by Derek Lusk on Tue, Mar 24, 2015

hogan-mythbustersJudgment and decision-making are highly consequential in human affairs, and many of us tend to be influenced by experts and those with power. Here’s a scary thought mentioned by Ian Ayers in his book Super Crunchers: Why Thinking-by-Numbers Is the New Way to Be Smart: Germ theory was proposed in the mid-16th Century but not universally accepted until the end of the 19th Century because doctors, and those in power within the medical community, were unable to come to grips with data supporting that doctors were causing patient deaths when they didn’t wash their hands. In fact, the individual proposing this hypothesis was fired and eventually suffered a nervous breakdown. Although melodramatic, this example illustrates the fallibleness of the long philosophized great chain of being concept detailing a rigid hierarchy of superiority and inferiority. Turns out, those at the top of the social strata aren’t stronger, faster, funnier, or superhuman. In fact, they’re just like all of us: biased, influenced by personality, and wrong most of the time.

Three experiments conducted by Adam Galinsky and colleagues found the powerful to be more committed to their own perspective and less empathetic towards others. So, why do many of us – notably the highly dutiful and conforming – place excess trust in authority? Well, at the broadest level human behavior should be explained using an evolutionary psychology framework. Strong group level selection pressures, such as warfare, may have created the need for leadership to serve as an adaptive resource with the function of solving group-related problems and influencing self-interested individuals to act on behalf of the group (e.g., coordination, conflict resolution, motivation, direction). Considering the importance of leadership for survival, we’ve developed psychological mechanisms to identify leadership worth following. We look for integrity, expertise, good judgment, and vision; however, the façade of expertise and higher social standing may cloud our evaluations of effective leadership—especially when combined with the appearance of nobility and charisma.

Everyone is wrong the majority of the time due to pre- and post-decision biases—regardless of expertise or social position. But, it’s not all bad news. Good judgment isn’t about getting everything right the first time around. It’s more about having strategic self-awareness around personality-driven, counter-productive biases and tendencies, and instead of telling yourself what you want to hear, being open to recalibration after you’re wrong. A little self-awareness and openness to feedback allow us to consider more data, learn from mistakes, and avoid blaming others for our own shortcomings.  

In short, we all make mistakes. Contrary to popular belief, those in power likely make more mistakes because they remain steadfast in their judgments regardless of how good they are. But, under the right circumstances we follow them through disastrous consequences. Moving forward, let’s accept that we’re all wrong most of the time and work hard to learn from our mistakes and not play the blame game.  

Topics: judgment, mythbusters

Keeping Up Appearances

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Mar 19, 2015


How many people know the real you? Last year, we asked 668 people to rank, on a scale of 1-10, how well their friends, spouse, coworkers, boss and others knew them. They answered as follows:

8.96 – Spouse or significant other
7.95 – Friends
7.55 – Mother
7.09 – Father
6.88 – Therapist
6.16 – Colleagues
5.62 – Boss

Although it intuitively makes sense, why is it that your friends and family would know you better than your boss or coworkers? After all, a UK poll of 2,500 people showed respondents spent an average of 44 waking hours with their colleagues, compared to only 34 waking hours with their partners, not to mention their friends and families. The only logical assumption, then, is that we’re not always our genuine selves.

Managing the impressions we make on others is an important skill. We pay attention to our hygiene and appearance, we show up to work on time, and we do our best not to offend our coworkers. And research shows that individuals who scored high on a measure of self-monitoring were more likely to get promoted and have a successful career than their less tactful counterparts.

Problem is, self-presentation and self-regulation are emotionally taxing, and since the average person spends 99,117 hours at work over his or her lifetime, odds are at some point you’ll let your guard down. And when you do, you may find the impressions you make are less than flattering.

“When you’re being yourself, when you stop self-monitoring, is when we see what we call dark-side personality characteristics emerge,” said Dr. Jeff Foster, Hogan’s VP of Science. “Even though they only tend to show up in times of stress, pressure, or boredom, they can be extremely damaging to your reputation.”

To find out more about how your dark side can impact your reputation and career, check out our complimentary ebook, “11 Ways to Wreck your Career”.

Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, derailment, HDS subscales

The Dark Side Just Got Darker

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Mar 17, 2015


Whether a demanding boss, pressing deadline, or mind-numbing monotony, the working world is full of stressors that can blur the line between strength and weakness. From the occasional outburst to a headline-worthy meltdown, when the dark side comes out, it can derail even promising careers. But it doesn’t have to.
Introducing, a new website dedicated to the dark side of personality. Delve deeper into the dark side of your Hogan Development Survey scores with the newly launched HDS subscales, see how your derailers stack up against people around the world, and learn how to manage your boss’s derailers.
Check it out today at

Topics: Hogan Development Survey, HDS, HDS subscales

Mythbusters Series: Emergence is not Effectiveness

Posted by Michael Sanger on Mon, Mar 16, 2015

hogan-mythbustersWe have some important advice for all the politicking, rising stars out there: before you dub yourself the organization’s next great scion, you’ll need to make sure you have the skillsets necessary to build and guide a high performing team. There are numerous reasons an individual may be nominated to represent a key part of the succession plan, but more often than not it’s because the employee is socially skilled, confident and interested in influencing. But just because one is generally rewarding to interact with doesn’t mean special resources should be dedicated to his or her advancement. Our point is this: When it comes to leadership positions, emergence does not necessarily equal effectiveness. This edition of our series debunks the myth that those identified as high potentials usually have the requisites for success at the higher levels. This is the story of the High-Pos, the Low-Pos, the Faux-Pos, and the So-sos.

At Hogan we define high potential as the ability to build and lead teams that can outperform the competition. Depending on the organizational strategy, the definition of performance can vary, and the criteria used to measure performance should be aligned accordingly. But these data should also be independent of the organization’s internal talent management systems. Examples include customer evaluations of performance, business unit revenue, accident reduction, and units produced. I say this because internal performance appraisals have shown to be problematic in identifying effectiveness due to questionable accuracy of raters and the politics embedded in the process. At its very core, the issues with an internal appraisal system stem from likeability factors that lead individuals to receive high or low ratings across the board. In other words, if a manager likes your personality, he or she will likely praise your other competencies (e.g. that age old favorite “Leadership”) as well.

But because so many organizations rely on performance rating forms and interviews with key stakeholders to identify their high potential employees, your Faux-Pos (those who talk a good game and know how to use their social faculties for advancement, but are unwilling to learn and/or put personal career aspirations ahead of team or company needs) are often mixed in with your Hi-Pos. Such lack of distinction can lead to detrimental results. In parallel, the So-Sos (those who work hard, are willing to learn, and believe in the company vision, but still need development around commonly noticed leadership skills) get grouped in with the Lo-Pos and are often left behind, leaving unknown opportunity costs. Research conducted by Luthans as well as by Lord, Vader & Alliger examine these concepts in further depth.

It may feel like after reading this, your nominations of the past have been nothing short of playing “Marco Polo” in your high potential pool. But this does not have to be the case. Matching personality profiles of previous high potential cohorts with data on long-term subsequent business performance can at least tease out general differences between the Hi Pos and Faux Pos of years past. With such information, and some additional organizational study, we may be able to then identify those potential-diamonds in the rough and responsibly widen the cache of future organizational leaders.


Topics: teams, high potential employees, mythbusters

Hogan Teams Up with J3Personica

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Thu, Mar 12, 2015


We recently partnered with J3Personica on a study aimed at identifying characteristics associated with successful orthopaedic surgical resident performance.

Nearly 300 orthopaedic residents across 12 programs in the U.S. were administered the Hogan Assessment suite of products: Hogan Personality Inventory (HPI), the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) and the Motives, Values, Preferences Inventory (MVPI).

“Currently, most residency programs rely on subjective or irrelevant criteria, such as appearance, interviews or letters of recommendation,” says Alan Friedman, J3Personica Founder & CEO. “Such sources often provide little information concerning one of the most critical aspects of success: the ability to provide quality services and interact with patients. Our Residency Select tool provides objectively based data to supplement existing selection criteria.”

Residents who were rated as high performers tended to remain calm under pressure, were procedurally driven, sensitive to patient needs and stayed current with medical trends and displayed an interest in learning new skills as identified by the HPI.

High performers also did not overreact to stressful situations, respond poorly to criticism, act overly self-confident or make impractical decisions as indicated by the HDS.

Finally, high performers valued helping others, consistency, established standards and doing what’s right for the patient and valued relationships more than profitability as highlighted by the MVPI.

“These results highlight the central role of personality in medical education and suggest that physicians’ performance is as dependent on their soft skills as their expertise and qualifications,” says Hogan CEO Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic.

Overall, the closer the resident’s fit to the psychometric profile as identified by subject matter experts, the higher the performance ratings. For example, higher fit orthopaedic residents were more than twice as likely to be rated as strong performers compared to their counterparts, were almost 2.5 times more likely to receive higher ratings on surgical skills, and were more than twice as likely to receive favorable ratings on metrics related to staff interaction, patients and fellow residents.

“At J3Personica, we are increasing self awareness within the healthcare system from medical school to practice,” says Friedman. “We are revolutionizing the way healthcare prepares people to care for people and we have the science to back it up.”

Topics: personality characteristics, healthcare

New! See the latest assessment data ROI results.

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Tue, Mar 10, 2015


When you use Hogan’s assessment solutions to help manage your people, you want to know they work. So, year after year, Hogan provides empirical evidence that demonstrates how our assessments impact clients’ unique business challenges and bottom lines, regardless of industry sector or job type. We conducted 30 ROI studies in 2013 and 2014. Business Outcome Highlights showcases 10 studies that demonstrate the power of personality at work.

Download it today.



Topics: ROI, personality assessment

Mythbusters Series: Opposites Attract

Posted by Kristin Switzer on Fri, Mar 06, 2015

hogan-mythbustersThe longtime notion that “opposites attract” is about to be debunked. For the romantic comedy lovers out there, this news may be heartbreaking. Some of the most recognized love stories are those that involve opposites. Take Beauty and the Beast, Pretty Woman, or Grease for example. All three tales include a powerful, romantic force between yin and yang which ends with the proverbial “happily ever after”. However, when it comes to real-life relationships, the opposite is true (no pun intended): people not only prefer a mate who is similar to them, but also personality similarity is a strong predictor of marital success and satisfaction.

A study published by the Journal of Evolutionary Psychology examined the extent to which individuals seek mates with similar personality characteristics. The study found that participants’ own personality characteristics (as measured by a Big 5 personality assessment) predicted the characteristics they ranked most important in regard to their potential mates’ personalities. In other words, when it comes to personality, opposites do not attract. However, as part of the same study (without seeing the results of their assessment) these same participants were then explicitly asked what they would prefer—a partner who is similar or complementary? The majority (more than 85%) answered the latter, indicating they believe they would prefer a partner who is not similar.

How can this be? It’s perplexing that in nearly the same breath individuals proclaim they want two different types of partners. According to Dijkstra and Barelds, the results are not as surprising as they initially sound. “When asked about their preferences for a mate, people may partially draw upon lay theories of romantic attraction rather than their true desires for a mate. In general, the notion that ‘opposites attract’ is a relatively popular lay theory of romantic attraction: people think that individuals who possess complementary characteristics are highly attracted to each other” (Barelds and Dijkstra, 2007). Thank you, Hollywood!

Although individuals may be a bit confused on what they want in their future partner, when it comes to deflating the myth that opposites attract, these results are supported by additional research. Another study conducted by the University of Iowa found that people tend to marry those who are similar in attitudes, religion, and values. Further, the study concluded that similarity in personality is associated with better relationship quality.

For those who are currently in or have been in a relationship with someone who you consider your opposite, I can understand why you may doubt these results. As I consider my friends and colleagues in relationships, many of them seem quite complementary in terms of their personality characteristics. Also, I have to admit myself that I consider my spouse and I to be quite opposite in many characteristics including communication style and risk tolerance. Yet, I recommend you also consider the commonalities between you and your companion. Upon giving this additional thought, you may quickly recognize, like I did, that we are much more similar than we are different.

For more busted myths, check out posts about right vs. left brained people or the fallacy of rationality and stay tuned for the next post in our mythbusters series.

Topics: personality, mythbusters

Hogan Names Chamorro-Premuzic as CEO

Posted by Hogan Assessments on Wed, Mar 04, 2015

We’re pleased to announce that Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, our VP of Research and Innovation, is assuming the role of Hogan's Chief Executive Officer.

Tomas will lead the development and execution of our growth strategy with a view to implementing the company’s long-term vision: to maintain our position as the leading independent provider of scientific assessment solutions for enhancing individual and organizational effectiveness. In addition, he will continue to oversee product development and innovation.

“Tomas has such a strong track record within our industry and in the world of academia,” says Chief Operating Officer Aaron Tracy. “To say we’re excited about the future with him at the helm would be an understatement.”

“I am truly honored to assume the role as CEO at Hogan,” says Chamorro-Premuzic. “For over 30 years, Hogan has pioneered the development of scientific tools for predicting and improving employee performance, particularly in leaders. My goal is to build on this extraordinary work, and reinforce our reputation as a global industry leader.”

Dr. Robert Hogan, our founder, will continue to serve as President and Chairman of the Board, and will take an increased role in product development efforts alongside Chamorro-Premuzic.

“Dr. Hogan has been a huge mentor of mine for many years – in fact, ever since I first embarked on my academic studies in organizational psychology,” Chamorro-Premuzic said. “We at Hogan remain committed to our foundation of being the science of personality, and we will continue to make investments in our future to maintain our status as the last independent business in our industry.”

Tomas is a world-renowned psychologist and an international authority in psychological profiling, consumer analytics and talent management. He is a professor of Business Psychology at University College London, visiting professor at Columbia University and has previously taught at the London School of Economics. He has consulted to wide range of clients, including JP Morgan, HSBC, MTV and the BBC.

Join us in congratulating Tomas! You can follow him on Twitter at @drtcp.

Topics: Hogan Team, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

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