A sense of self.

I am not a morning person.

So this weekend I had to peel myself out of bed early on Saturday, sleepily stumble into Starbucks for a grande latte and cram down some breakfast-on-the-run, all in the name of education. As you can imagine, I was not looking forward to it.

Luckily, though, I didn’t have to double fist the caffeine like I thought I would. It was actually really interesting.

Leadership is the focus of my business school program, so we all have to take this year-long seminar that meets all day on four Saturdays throughout the year. They’ll put us through just about every personality test and assessment that exists, and I’ve been told by other students that I will learn more about myself than I ever wanted to know. But I’m looking forward to embracing that knowledge — this class was the key seller to me when I was researching the program, and I’m hoping the self-actualization will tell me what I really should be doing with my life. I know this can’t be it.

The HBDI model

Before class even started, we took an online assessment called the Hermann Brain Dominance Index (HBDI). It’s supposed to show your thinking style — analytical, sequential, interpersonal or imaginative. Each of those styles is associated with a side of the brain (analytical/sequential = left, interpersonal/imaginative = right) and is assigned a color:

Analytical – Blue — These people ask What?

Sequential – Green — These people ask How?

Interpersonal – Red — These people ask Who?

Imaginative – Yellow — These people ask Why?

First, let me set the stage for you.

I am also not a “joiner.” So after enjoying a lovely lunch with a classmate, we returned to find the floor divided into four sections with a colored felt square in each. There were also a few stacks of cards, colored popsicle sticks and several of those stress balls on the front table. All of this screamed “audience participation!” and I was feeling unhinged.

I needn’t have worried though; the exercise ended up being really informative and surprising.

The HBDI test told me I’m almost equally a green and a red — a sequential and interpersonal thinker. (Most people rank highly in at least two of the categories, some in all 4, but that’s rare.) So far, that made sense — my attention to detail, planning skills and communication profession are represented there. But then came the eerie part.

The professor asked us all to stand in the square with our highest score (mine was green). Then he asked us to work with the others in our square to answer a question: “We’re going on vacation. What’s the first thing we should do?”

My group immediately faced each other and yelled out things like: “Research!” “Itineraries!” “Spreadsheets!” “Packing lists!”

If you have traveled with me, you know how well that fits. I have lists for everything I do in life, and before we leave for vacation, I email you our day-by-day itinerary in an Excel document, which includes our hotel/car reservations, flight information and targeted activities. I don’t necessarily have to follow it once we get there, but I do relish the planning. What was so funny is how everyone in my group had exactly the same thought process.

Then we went around to the other groups:

Blue asked, What’s our budget?

Red asked, Who’s going with us?

Yellow asked,”Where are we going?”
[This group actually got so wrapped up in brainstorming locations that they never made it to any sort of consensus on how to answer the question.]

We’re so predictable.

Another interesting part is how those four groups relate to each other — Blue/Green and Yellow/Red relate best to one another because they sit on the same side of the brain. Green/Yellow and Blue/Red are polar opposites, so they have the hardest time understanding each other. Blue to Yellow and Green to Red are also challenging, but not as difficult as their opposites. The thing is, you need all four to make a whole brain … and a whole team.

The HBDI results also tell you which of the four quadrants you revert to under stress. Mine was blue — those logical, rational, number-crunching analysts. Say what?

But it was neat. Neat to see how your thinking behavior can be identified by a seemingly-random set of survey questions, and neat that some people can be so on your wavelength. I now also understand why I wanted to physically harm that guy I used to work with who talked in endless circles of abstract thought. A yellow, hmph.

I already learned a lot about myself on day one, and I’ll be taking a host of other assessments over the next few months — I took the Big 5 personality test last semester, but Myers-Briggs and a 360 degree feedback assessment are coming up. I’m excited. I’m fascinated by what makes people tick, so I’m just as interested in my own psychology. I think I’ll be so self-aware that I’ll hardly be able to stand myself.

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