Here’s What’s Wrong With The DISC Personality Assessment

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A lot of folks who haven’t taken assessments roll their eyes at personality assessment tools. In tandem, many folks are subject to DISC, Myers Briggs, and a myriad of other tests and while results are being thrown at them, the root of why these tests are being administered are never explained. We’ve consistently stressed that it’s not the test alone that will give you all the answers. After all, how are you going to find the right answers when you’re not even asking any questions? By sitting down and asking can I learn more or can I get better with these results? The answer then becomes a resounding YES!

Before I take a jab at DISC, let me start by saying that DISC is one of the three foundational assessments in our assessment battery for a reason. Of personality assessments, DISC consistently comes in as one of the most validated assessments, with studies putting its validation at 90%. What does this mean? This high validity means that DISC’s metric of predictability in human behavior is extremely consistent. Scholarly articles are abound (such as this one) that show time and time again that DISC is extremely effective. But there are also articles like this which aim to serve as a deterrent to the usage of DISC.

I understand seeing both sides, and I welcome the discourse of doubt — and we also hope our results can show you otherwise. Whichever side of the debate you’re on, the fact of the matter is that DISC has been around for almost a century, is used by almost three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies, and is utilized by all branches of the U.S. military. It’s arguably the most widely used assessment globally when it comes to hiring, recruiting, and team-building. We’re not oblivious to that, and that’s why DISC does sit among our three assessment battery: we recognize just how powerful of a tool DISC is. But the reason DISC isn’t the only assessment we use is because we do see that while it gives you a snapshot of a person’s behavioral profile, it can be so much clearer.

So if DISC has about an 80–90% validity, what about the part that’s not there? How do we fill that gap? We’ve spent a lot of time in these articles talking about DISC — and I reiterate again just how much we believe in DISC’s power — but we know that DISC alone cannot tell you everything about a person. To add on to DISC’s high predictability, we have two other assessments, Core (Individual Values) and Drive (Individual Motivations), that aim to bolster some of the areas that DISC does indeed miss when it comes to understanding people.

If DISC gives us a snapshot of who we are in terms of behavior, our assessment on Core looks at what we value when it comes to behavior and environment. Of the 28 main Core values people can have (some examples include wealth, freedom, family happiness, and so on), our Core assessment parses out the top 5 most important values to a person from the options given to them. This doesn’t mean the other values that appear in the top 5 don’t matter, but the ones that do claim the spot resonate most important to the assessee. Alongside our Core assessment, our Drive assessment looks at why we’re motivated to operate the way we do. An example of one of the 7 Drivers we assess is Expertise — someone scoring high in Expertise is motivated or driven to learn the processes they’re working on, conversely, someone scoring low is less concerned about the process and more focused on getting the right answer.

So how do these two assessments round out DISC? Let’s use a watered-down example. In the world of DISC, the C personality style is often attributed to people who are good with data, numbers, patterns — these are people who like having the answers. The assumption an employer might make if they have an employee with a C personality style is that they should put them in a data position where the employee analyzes routine processes day in and day out. It’s safe, it’s consistent, and it involves all the things we assume folks who are C’s love. Say then, that the employee doesn’t thrive in their position. One might be quick to say “well look at that, DISC doesn’t work!”

But say that employee was given DISC along with our Core and Drive assessments, and we find out that one of their top Core values is Creativity and they have a high Drive in Expertise. By putting this employee in a role where there’s no process to truly master because their role is routine and because of this routineness there’s no room to explore creatively, is the assessment wrong or is the environment the employee was put in wrong?

Our assumptions about people and about assessments, even if we think we intuitively know the answers, can be off. Let’s take Steve Jobs for instance. We know he has that D (Dominance) in him because of his powerful and assertive attitude. As a leader of a tech company like Apple, it’s easy to assume that he would also have that C style in him — that calculated, data-driven mind. But read this. Jobs took DISC and he had very little C in him; in fact, he had a soaring I. That makes sense given the way his visionary mind revolutionized Apple in the modern age. What if his Core values included ‘structure and order’ and his Driver for ‘Expertise’ was very high? That would still explain some of the ways we, as observers, perceived Jobs’ desire to learn and know everything about his company and products, but not have the C in his DISC profile.

The real issue at hand is that often when people overlook DISC, it’s because they use it to set a firm expectation of understanding people and their behavior rather than using it as a guideline towards growth. Beyond that, at Profile, we understand that DISC has its shortcomings. If we’re trying to grow stronger and get better, DISC is our workout routine. We all know we have to exercise to lose weight, but so many people forget the fact that you have to manage your diet too. Our bolstering assessments of Core and Drive work holistically with DISC to be the complete package into getting you and your organization performing at peak capabilities.

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