Twenty models to identify team roles

Team Roles, that’s no longer a joke. The personality test is big business. Some models are owned by global consulting and training firms. Others are more or less successful clones and spin-offs. Some go back thousands of years. And others are just entering the stage. An overview.

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  1. Four Temperaments (Hippocrates, 460-370 BC.). Yes, why not? It seems far-fetched but it actually is not inferior to many other models. Until early last century, it was still widely used in medicine. Some temperaments are common in our language, like phlegmatic and melancholic. I’ve seen versions that are used in a business context, and team building, complete with tests … and colors!
  2. The Big Five is one of the most studied (and best) validated personality models, based on five scales, or characteristics. Personalities consist of a unique combination of five positions on the scales or ‘dimensions’. So it does not come up with holistic personality types. The model has a long history, but grown in its current form around 1985.
  3. Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI) works with 22 scales: 11 for needs and 11 for roles. The long questionnaire produces a ‘spider web’ graph and is interesting as a starting point for a conversation. For several decades it was the favorite of assessors and recruiters. There are still updates issued. Recently, an explicit link was made with the Big Five.
  4. Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono (1985). The first (known to me) model which combines colors explicitly with team styles. Widely used in teams who innovate, brainstorm and decide. The key message is that a team requires sufficient diversity to achieve creativity. De Bono created a method with it: so you can ask team members to consciously put on a certain type of hat. Sometimes all different, on other occastions all the same. De Bono has made it to super-management guru.
  5. Life Orientations (LIFO) method, developed by Allan Katcher (1967), originally to identify group dynamics. It works with four types of ‘forces’ or ‘qualities’ of people. Of all four, there are two variants: a style in favorable conditions and a style when you’re under pressure. The associated test has been extensively researched and – not surprising – started to use color-coding. The system has/had a vast, worldwide network of licensed trainers, but seems to have given loads away to competing systems.
  6. Kolb’s learning styles were used from the 70s onwards, and in the 90s expanded to also characterize team roles, but it was never really meant for this. The learning cycle I find valuable, but the accompanying personality types (activists, pragmatists, reflectors, theorists) are difficult to explain and too abstract.
  7. Leary’s Rose is one of my favorite models because it is extremely recognizable and smart-simple. Focuses entirely on behavior (not personality) and on action-reaction (interaction) between people. The rose has eight wedges with behavioral categories, divided in functional and dysfunctional (extreme) versions. I have seen tests to characterize people in their preferred behavior, but I think it’s more useful to identify specific behavioral situations. Everyone uses all behavioral wedges sometimes, though obviously with preferences.
  8. Change Colors of the Caluwé and Vermaak. Sometimes – like Kolb – they are used to discuss team roles and team composition, but it was never made for this. The system relies heavily on the color coding and, since many other systems now do the same, it leads to confusion instead of clarification. Especially since all systems use the colors for different categories. So if someone is predominantly ‘red’, we now have to ask: ‘according to what model?’
  9. Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) from 1978 and renewed in 1996. Is not so much about teams, more about individuals. The colors are of secondary importance. There are simple and more complex variations of the model, with multiple layers and divisions.
  10. Management Drives uses six colors to express what basic motives govern your decisions and your actions. Based on the theory of Spiral Dynamics Graves (1970 first publication) and popularized by Beck and Cowan (1996). Management Drives is big business now. It struck me how hard it is to find critical notes on Google, compared to other systems. It seems they manage their image carefully.
  11. Real Drives is a spin-off of this, after messing around with the founders of Management Drives. The Real Drives claim to be ‘fundamentally different’ but, in my eyes, it is not. If you delve into the history if it all you’ll find a lot of family-fighting and legal battles surrounding the brand.
  12. Profile Dynamics is again a variation, but suddenly with seven colors. There are several other alternatives, all dealing with values and motivational grounds.
  13. Meyers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). Based on Jung’s personality scales, dating back from 1921. In 1962 the first test tool was published. Initially it focused on individuals, later also on teams. People often raved about this model because it is nicely detailed. Countless off-sites where spent on the MBTI. The typing is done with intricate four-letter combinations (‘I am an INFP’) that are not easy to pronounce (or remember), and I think that’s one of the reasons why it is now replaced by simpler color models (14-17). MBTI is fighting back though, with version in which the letter codes have been replaced by archetypical personality types, such as ‘crusaders’ or ‘builders’.
  14. Insights Discovery (4 colors / 8 roles) builds on top of MBTI and even reaches back to the four tempraments! It has prominent color coding too. We are talking big business here: a global brand name, licensing, workshops, paraphernalia and large customers.
  15. Deeper Insights Discovery (72 archetypes such as ‘rebel’ or ‘prince’) is a variation of the previous one. It is remarkable that this brand (like Management Drives or Lumina Spark) has managed to keep criticism from the internet. You won’t find a critical wiki, and trust me, every personality system is heavily critiqued. The marketing of these brands is hermetic.
  16. Personal Color (based on Jung and Big Five) is a relatively young model (but a clone of predecessors) with four basic colors. It uses explicit feedback from others (360 style), separating corporate from private behavior, and also measures style flexibility.
  17. Lumina Spark (since 2009) similarly builds on Jung and Big Five. Claims to unite these two systems in a ‘revolutionary’ manner and that is able to ‘embrace the paradoxes’ in humans. Works with colors and contrasts, such as ‘product-oriented’ versus ‘people oriented’. Lumina Learning doesn’t seem to be a small company and claims to be growing fast on an international scale.
  18. Quinn’s Octogram, by Quinn and Rohrbaugh (1983). The model offers six styles, focused on leadership. Is now less popular than 15 years ago. The Octogram nowadays comes (surprisingly) with colors, but they are purely decorative.
  19. The Enneagram, early 20s developed by George Gurdjieff, philosopher and mystic. His pupil Ouspensky published in 1949 for the first time about it. There are nine personalities (such as ‘romantic’ and ‘mediator’). The model has long been regarded as esoteric, but around 2000 suddenly got picked up by the business community and a small bookshop could rapidly be filled with manuals for trainers and managers. Scientists categorically rejected it. It’s now disappearing from the business scene.
  20. The Belbin Team Roles are still quite popular, although less than before. It is a well-designed and scientifically researched model, and it is completely focused on teams and team composition. It stole my heart because of this. The simple (and popular) test that you can find everywhere on the internet is extremely shallow, but could be used as the start of self-reflection.

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