Stewart Desson, Lumina Learning CEO & Founder
In the old days, psychometrics just existed. People developed personality psychometrics almost in an academic context before even the knowledge of competency at work. They then went around looking for an application for it. Those days have long gone. We now understand the relationship between personality and competency extremely well. And the language of organisations is of course competencies. It’s the behaviours we display at work. So, if we can quickly understand the competencies required in organisation – and we can use our extensive database of analysis to see what sort of personality traits support those competencies – we’re really harnessing the power of science to bring about more effective selection and development processes.
One key development in psychometrics, and where the field is continuing to innovate, is in going digital. In the old days, everything was paper-based. I recall in the good old days people stored the psychometrics on paper, and locked them away in a cupboard with a key that only the psychologist had. Half of the job of a psychologist was to unlock the cupboard, administer the process. That’s gone, we’ve automated that all away – half of that role doesn’t exist anymore, our systems do it. That’s continuing in that we’re embedding expert systems into digital solutions. This means individuals can interact with the system to get an understanding of who they are and indeed be coached through the apps that are developed. So that’s one key shift in the market. Of course, there’s still a huge role for coaches, psychologists and L&D people as facilitators of that process. It just means there will be changes, they need to find ways to add more value with these tools in support.
New applications of psychometrics
In the future, I think we will see a larger use of psychometrics from marketers. For many, many decades marketers have profiled people demographically based on age and social class. That’s been the basis of much marketing around the world. And now something’s happened. Through the Internet, through gathering more data, marketers have woken up to the fact that actually looking at different personalities, different traits, is also an extremely helpful way to segment for marketing purposes. And, of course, politicians have woken up to that, too. They see it as a good way of influencing people to vote for them, or, somewhat ethically concerning, to not vote at all. So, it’s exciting and it’s a concern same time.
One of the interesting things here is that my experience with psychometrics is much more at a personal level. I want to help the individual develop, I want to help an organisation find the right people for the right roles. But when we lift things up to a higher level in terms of marketing, mass-marketing to millions and tens of millions of people, you no longer need the accuracy at the individual level for the approaches to still be useful. So actually, in my experience so far, the way of profiling people, looking at their internet profiles and their interactions, it’s nowhere near as accurate still as traditional psychometric questionnaires or having a dialogue with somebody to find out about them. But in some ways for marketing purposes it’s not necessary to be so accurate because you’re dealing with aggregate numbers at a high level. That’s an interesting reflection.
I’m sure as time goes by, we will figure out ways of looking at your digital footprint and much more accurately figuring out who you are, your way of being, and what you’re all about. Whether it will take a couple of years or a decade I’m not sure.
Innovation at Lumina Learning
At Lumina Learning we’ve embraced innovation in psychometrics since our launch, but there’s a lot, lot more to do.
We need to continue down the route of democratising psychometrics and democratising knowledge around psychology and self-awareness. In my youth it was quite hard to get hold of these books and have people help you experience psychometrics. Now, through the power of the internet and digital distribution we’re getting to many, many more people all across the globe at younger ages. So we’re sort of democratising it and making it available. It’s not locked away in a cupboard for the experts, it’s for everyone.
The second thing that we’re doing is working on the topic of bias. We want to reduce those biases which are there in society and are certainly present in psychometrics. We have our eye on reducing evaluative bias where we value an extravert more than an introvert, for example. Or we value someone that’s very optimistic more than someone who is more vigilant, and so on. So we have a great focus on looking at issues of bias psychologically, in terms of gender and so on.
And the third thing that we’re about is digitising, but digitising so that we make stuff practical. We put the knowledge in the palm of your hands, and you have it with you whenever you need it. So it’s not locked away in a cupboard, it’s not something you do as a one-off. We can start to interact digitally with these resources, and they’re catalysts for us. So going digital, making it practical, that’s the third thing we’re going to be working on over the next 5 to 10 years.