Jul 102012

In tomorrow evening’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I’ll discuss DiSC Personality Types with Santiago Valenzuela. Santiago introduced me to DiSC, and I’ve found it hugely useful for understanding my own defaults and preferences, including in communication, as well as that of others. It’s far more useful, I think, than other personality schemes like Meyers-Briggs.

Here, before the broadcast, I want to introduce you to some of the basics of DiSC.

DiSC is a personality inventory focused on predicting behavior, particularly a person’s default behavior. Remember though, personality is not destiny. A person can always choose to act against the grain of his personality.

DiSC has two axes: (1) assertive versus reserved and (2) people-oriented versus task-oriented (or better, thing-oriented). Those two axes yield four personality profiles — Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. People are often blends of multiple types.

Here are the four quadrants, taken from this DiSC Basics PDF from Manager Tools:

Wikipedia summarizes the four types nicely:

Dominance: People who score high in the intensity of the “D” styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low “D” scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High “D” people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.

Influence: People with high “I” scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with low “I” scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.

Steadiness: People with high “S” styles scores want a steady pace, security, and do not like sudden change. High “S” individuals are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. Low “S” intensity scores are those who like change and variety. People with low “S” scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.

Contentiousness: People with high “C” styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High “C” people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, and tactful. Those with low “C” scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and unconcerned with details.

You can take a free DiSC test. However, in my experience, those results aren’t nearly as accurate as the $27 test from Manager Tools. That test offers a detailed and useful report too. If you like, you can view my DiSC report (PDF). I’m the classic “results-oriented” pattern, meaning high D, lesser I, no S, and a bit of C.

For Wednesday’s broadcast, you might want to print a copy of Manager Tools’ DiSC Cheat Sheet: How to Be Effective with DiSC Every Day (PDF).

Also, I strongly recommend listening to the core Manager Tools Podcasts on DiSC:

You can find more awesome podcasts on DiSC in the full Manager and Career Tools feeds. (Those feeds are available to anyone who registers for free on their web site.)

I’m super-excited to talk about DiSC tomorrow evening — and I hope that you’ll join us! As usual, the live show airs at 6 pm PT / 7 pm MT / 8 pm CT / 9 pm ET. Later that evening, I’ll post the audio on the archive page.

  • incrediblemulk

    The funny thing is that I had a hard time doing this test. Why? Because I have a high “C”. :)

  • William H Stoddard

    Do you know about the Big Five Model? That’s claimed to be based on traits that emerge repeatedly in studies of personality variation. Some of the traits seem to be a bit misleadingly named, though. The acronym is OCEAN, for Openness to Experience (which is really more “artistic and intellectual interests”), Conscientiousness (which looks a bit like acceptance of duties and obligations assigned by others), Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (some versions of the theory focus on the opposite trait, Emotional Stability). I think that there may be some overlap with the DISC system as you describe it.

  • Jim May

    I was hoping to listen in tonight, as Santiago and I were discussing whether I, as a hi-CD sort of person, could work in a “flat organization” such as Valve, the Steam game publishers and creators of Half-Life. I have another commitment this evening, though, so I’ll drop some thoughts in here in case you see it.

    I’ve looked at many of these personality models over the years, including Meyers-Briggs, and I have long looked at them askance for one big reason that William hinted at: they are far too often based on false alternatives stemming from bad philosophy, or simply arbitrary premises — for example, “perception” versus “judgment”, which is the last letter of the Meyers-Briggs system (in my case, INTJ). I’ve long wondered what one of these would look like if based on Objectivist premises, e.g. active vs. passive minded, conceptual versus perceptual, abstract vs. concrete-bound, conceptual versus anti-conceptual.

    That being said, while these models are designed by people operating on bad premises, they are nevertheless observing real people with these models — and as such, it is possible for Objectivists to find value in a model so long as we apply the appropriate filters to correct for the broken terms of thought present in the model — i.e. we treat them as potentially useful **descriptors** of personality, but no deeper.

    A system that relied heavily on Freud, for example, doesn’t tell us anything important or fundamental about a person or his motivations, because its foundational structures and concepts bear no relation to anything fundamental about human beings. However, it does provide us with certain descriptors that we can still find useful; the “anal-retentive”, for example, is a definite personality type that we’ve all likely encountered and recognized, despite the fact that the entire concept of “anal retention” as determining personality in that manner is bogus.

    I would like to know how you and Santiago, see the relationship between the DiSC basic model of the human mind, and that of Objectivism — and secondarily, what distinguishes DiSC versus the other models as a descriptor of human personality types.

  • John Pryce

    VERY high D score: 56%. Not that surprised, really.

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