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Hot or Not? A Modern-Day Parable of the Talents

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Hot or Not? A Modern-Day Parable of the Talents

What if a personality test used by your company to profile its staff revealed that someone is not in alignment with their true talents? Should you hide the truth?

Failed pitches in business are an excellent opportunity for learning. Some time ago, two innovation managers working at the European head office of a Multinational Corporation in a mature industry had expressed interest in TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovator profiling tools for individuals, teams, and companies. We had agreed to explore if TIPS is a fit for this company in a conference call. I also offered free TIPS online test coupons to allow them to check out our innovator profiling tool. Both came out with a clear, distinct TIPS profile (Ideator and Partner). At the beginning of our call, I asked them how they like their profiling result. They acknowledged that their TIPS profile aligns well with how they see themselves. However, the two innovation managers lacked the usual enthusiasm that people with a fitting profile express. I immediately sensed that something was wrong — and that we wouldn’t have a deal. Curious to understand why I invited them to comment on TIPS. What I learned triggered me to write this blog post unveiling an interesting dilemma many managers and organizations face. 

A surprising negative feedback

After completing the TIPS online personality test, users receive a 36-page report with their profiling results. This is comprehensive for a reason: Whenever I invested time and money to check out other personal assessment tools and received reports of four pages or less (and often even only one page), I felt as if I was being short-changed. One of our values at Thinkergy is offering meaningful value to our customers in return for the money they pay. Hence, while designing TIPS, I wanted to make sure that compared to other competing tools in the market, our profiling reports provide much more meaningful value for the price we charge for a TIPS online test (USD 89). In the end, I settled on 36 pages for the TIPS report. We know from test users we surveyed that most of them valued the report’s depth and breadth with lots of real business and innovation applications. 

Back to our phone call: When the two innovation managers stated that our TIPS report is too long, I was surprised. They were looking for a tool with a report of 4-5 pages at a maximum, as most of their colleagues were too busy to read longer texts. As an academic, I viewed this feedback as an intellectual declaration of defeat; and as a creative leader, I regard it as a lack of open curiosity, a missed opportunity to learn more about oneself. But this unexpected feedback gave me an idea: Within the next year, we may offer the TIPS test as a basic version (4 pages for USD 39) and complete version (36 pages for USD 89).

However, I felt that the length of the report wasn’t the real issue bugging my counterparts. As both managers belong to Gen Y, I sensed that they probably felt apprehensive about bringing a comparatively new personal assessment such as TIPS into their long-established organization. So, I invited them to tell me what else they think is wrong with TIPS. To my even greater surprise, they disclosed what they really dislike in the TIPS profiling report: a section titled “Hot or not”. 

Introducing the "Hot or Not?"-ecosystem check of TIPS

Our detailed TIPS report first informs test users about their TIPS innovator profile and their preferred cognitive styles (to think, work, interact, and live). The report then features special sections that suggest how users can apply their profiling results to perform better in business and innovation. 

One of these application sections is called “Hot or not.” Here, we outline what ecosystems are “hot” fits for each TIPS profile. Thereby an ecosystem can be a particular industry, a business function, or an organizational type. When you work in a “hot” ecosystem that suits your TIPS profile, then your work feels easy, enjoyable, and effortless most of the time. In contrast, when you’re stuck in a “not” environment (that doesn’t fit your profile), work feels more like a difficult, de-energizing drudgery (DDD) on most days.

The “hot or not”-ecosystem recommendations in the TIPS report can help test users to find a suitable career environment that feels intrinsically motivating and allows them to perform at a peak level. Or using Einstein’s analogy: This section helps a fish to end up swimming in the water and a monkey climbing trees. Little wonder that user feedback during the development phase of TIPS confirmed that many test users love this section in the report. Moreover, research revealed that TIPS users regard this section’s contents as a personal career guide. 

Digging deeper to unveil a talent management dilemma

When I asked my counterparts why they disliked the “Hot or not”-section, the manager profiled as an Ideator stated that this section was wrong, as it lists the industry in which she’s working as a “not” industry for her profile type. I suggested that perhaps, she hadn’t read her report in detail, and explained:

Only one of the three “hot or not” ecosystems parameters (industry, business function, or organizational type), and not all parameters, need to be in the “hot” area to make it a fit and make someone like and succeed in their work. 

Because she worked as an innovation facilitator, she was in a “hot” business function for her Ideator-type, which is why she enjoys working in that industry at this point. 

However, I also told her that as an Ideator, it was unlikely that she’d reach a C-level position in that industry, as most senior executives in that industry have a different profile.

Probably because I was argumentative and passionately defended the accuracy of the section contents in the TIPS report —after all, the deal was lost anyway, and I wanted to find out what’s really going on here—, the innovation manager revealed the real reason behind her dislike of TIPS. She said: “We don’t like this section because it may tempt some talents in our ranks to leave their job for pursuing another career more in line with their talents.” I asked her: “So, you’d rather prefer to hide the truth from those colleagues who work in an ecosystem that is suboptimal for them — or even totally wrong?” She ended the discussion by plainly stating: “We just don’t like it.” 

Finally, I figured out why these Gen Y innovation managers had reservations about bringing TIPS as a cognitive profiling method for innovation into their organization. They were apprehensive that TIPS might enlighten a few of their colleagues of an inconvenient truth: That they are working in a “not” environment. These colleagues would need to make a career change to better align their natural talents to a conducive ecosystem. They would need to move to a more suitable functional business unit, or better fitting industry, or another organizational type. 

When good people were leaving their team or the company to pursue a better fitting career opportunity, other managers in the company might blame our two innovation managers for suggesting a personal assessment tool telling an inconvenient truth. 

Why would organizations conceal the truth?

I make a case that it’s a moral obligation for an organization to allow its talents to test their cognitive ecosystem fit as early as possible to give non-fits a chance to realign themselves to a more conducive environment. Why?

  1. Organizations and human capital managers who embrace TIPS can use the insights from a TIPS profiling exercise to carry out internal talent realignments. Put the right person into the right job. Offer colleagues in a “not”- to internally move to a “hot”-position. Such job realignments will positively impact their job performance and lead to higher rates of talent retention.
  2. If internal talent realignments are not feasible, proactive human capital managers may want to give those colleagues with a cognitive ecosystem mismatch an opportunity to realign their careers themselves and move from a “not” to a “hot” career environment externally. You may think here: “Why should a company do this? They risk losing a colleague with knowledge, experience, and contacts?” You have a point. But who would you rather have as a colleague? A colleague who reliably but dispassionately plods through his work in a “not”-role? Or a colleague who loves her work and goes the extra mile because she’s in a “hot” job?
  3. By 2030 at least 40% of tasks currently being done by humans are estimated to be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Automation will make some jobs redundant entirely. A 2017 McKinsey study predicts that by 2030, AI and automation will displace between 400 and 800 million jobs globally, and require another 375 million people to switch job categories completely. And guess who will be made redundant first? Those who passionately work in a “hot” job that is EEE to them? Or those who drudge along in a “not” job that feels DDD to them?

Why did I include a “Hot or not”-section in the TIPS report?

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live it’s whole life believing its stupid,” said Albert Einstein. A fish swims effortlessly in the water. A monkey joyfully swings from tree to tree. Correspondingly, each human talent deserves to be in the right career in a conducive ecosystem that allows them to perform at their best. I passionately believe in the importance of this maxim. To help test users to confirm or find their true career fit, I created the “Hot or not” section in the TIPS report. It motivated me to undertake the efforts and investments in TIPS after the blueprint of the TIPS method popped up in my mind one day. Why? 

For one-and-a-half decades, I worked and performed well but dispassionately in a “not” environment (banking) instead of finding my sweet spot (creativity and innovation) that allows me to perform at peak levels early on in my career. I believe that such misalignments are a waste of talent, educational investment, and economic value for society. 

Conclusion: Embrace an inconvenient truth to benefit your colleagues, your organization, and society at large

Holding back an inconvenient truth may offer short-term benefits to some managers who otherwise may lose a well-functioning, but ultimately detached well-performer from their team. But by hiding the truth, you rob talented colleagues of the chance to realign their career. You prevent them from finding a job they’d genuinely enjoy and allows them to perform at their best. 

Ultimately, hiding the truth leads to suboptimal results for companies who satisfy with employing well-performers instead of exploring ways to turn everyone into a top-performer. And it’s suboptimal for a society and economy which invests hundreds of thousands of dollars in bringing up and educating talents, but then fails to put these into fitting roles in the right ecosystem that allows them to perform naturally. So, take the TIPS test for yourself. As a manager, offer it to the members of your team. “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

  • Do you want to learn more about TIPS and its abundant business applications? Check out our TIPS website or download our TIPS booklet.
  • Are you ready to get TIPS-ed now and uncover your TIPS profile for $89? Click here to get to our TIPS online personality test platform.
  • Are you interested in profiling your team or the entire company so that we can map out your results? And then, teach you in a webinar on how to better align your talents to thrive during disruption? Contact us to tell us more.

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2020



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