Our guide to the HBDI

HBDI ® – Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

The most powerful team tool in the market today!

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What is the HBDI®?

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (or HBDI®) is a psychometric assessment. It’s focus is how individuals prefer to think. Specialists in this tool refer to it as the ‘Whole Brain Model’ as it provides insights into our thinking preferences. In doing so it highlights the diversity of different thinking styles and how these add enormous value to organisations and teams.

The basic premise of this instrument or tool is that it divides the brain into four quadrants, analytical, practical, relational, and experimental. Each of these is represented by a different colour. Individuals usually prefer to think in a combination of these quadrants. On rare occasions individuals even have a preference for only one quadrant. We use the HBDI® because it enables individuals and teams to focus on diversity of thought and communication and as a result achieve higher levels of performance.

‘By understanding yourself you can learn to understand and value others.’

Ned Herrmann

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What are the origins of the HBDI®?

The HBDI was originally researched and created by William ‘Ned’ Herrmann. Herrmann was a physicist by training who spent much of his career working for General Electric as a manager. He was fascinated by the brain, particularly it’s ability to be creative. From the late 1970s on , Herrmann researched, developed, and validated the HBDI®.

‘Creativity in its fullest sense includes both generating an idea and manifesting it – making something happen as a result.’

Ned Herrmann

Is the HBDI® widely used?

The HBDI® instrument has been used by over 2.2 million people around the globe in different languages and from different cultural backgrounds. It has been the subject of more than 32 books, and over 100 articles. The organisation that use the HBDI® extensively include IBM, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Goldman Sachs, and Target. It is also used by the Australian and New Zealand Governments as well as the Military in the USA, Australia and Europe.

Herrmann International treat the HBDI® as a proprietary tool and do no licence their product to other providers. Many providers do this and enable ‘White Labelling’ of their products. Other tools (like DISC Profiling) are open source and can be created by anyone. The advantage of the HBDI® approach is that they have access to all profiles ever taken. This enables them to draw significant insights and research from he data they have gathered over many years. Peter Drucker, the business guru, also recommends it in the Harvard Business Press on Knowledge Management.

Taking the HBDI® Assessment.

The HBDI® Assessment survey results in a profile that maps and provides insights on an individuals preferred thinking preferences. Understanding these preferences has a material impact on an individuals ability to communicate and develop. This leads to improvements in:

– Decision making
– Problem solving
– Communication, and
– Leadership effectiveness

The survey measures preference not skills.

Is there a link between Leadership Development and Whole Brain Thinking?

The short answer is a resounding ‘YES’!

The single greatest challenge for leaders is communication and the HBDI is the best communication tool we have ever seen. The HBDI allows leaders to communicate with their teams in their language, thereby instantly increasing a leaders effectiveness.

Herrmann International has written an excellent whitepaper called ‘Inclusive Leadership Playbook‘. This explains how leaders should embrace diversity and found that ‘whole brained teams’ are substantially more effective. We highly recommend the HBDI for use by Leadership Teams as a means of becoming highly effective as a team.

‘..whole brained teams are 66% more effective than homogeneous teams’ – Inclusive Leadership Playbook.

A Completed HBDI Profile

Below is the HBDI Profile of our Principal, Timothy Kitching. Tim is a qualified HBDI practitioner who uses and drives HBDI as a key tool in Leadership Development and Coaching Programs.
Very clearly Tim is Very Strong in Yellow, which means that he is a creative thinker and sees issues and challenges from a ‘bigger picture’ perspective. Tim is also strong in Red and Green with a people focus and a desire to be organised and structured. Tim is not so keen on facts and the details. Under pressure (the dotted line), Tim’s desire for the details and the facts escalates very quickly but his ability to be structured and organised in his approach decreases.

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What do the coloured quadrants mean?

Blue and green quadrants represent the left side of the brain.

Yellow and red quadrants represent the right side of the brain.

Blue and yellow quadrants represent the top half of the brain.

Green and red quadrants represent the bottom half of the brain.

A – Blue quadrant: Logical, technical, and financial. In a single word ‘Fact’, or as a profession – Engineer.

B – Green quadrant: Organised, detailed, and structured. In a single word ‘Form’, or as a profession – Project Manager.

C – Red quadrant: Emotional, sensory, and people. In a single word ‘Feeling’, or as a profession – Teacher/Nurse.

D – Yellow quadrant: Risk taker, intuitive, and the big picture. In a single word ‘Future’, or as a profession – Entrepreneur.

The reality is that very few people are dominant in only one area so we are a blend of these thinking styles and preferences.

Making sense of the HBDI Instrument.

The HBDI Colours.

Quadrant A (Blue) is about facts and logic.

Quadrant B (Green) is about organisation and structure.

Quadrant C (Red) is about feeling and emotion.

Quadrant D (Yellow) is about imagination.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

On every HBDI profile there are 3 sets of numbers:

The Preference Code,

The Adjective Pairs, and

The Profile Scores.

HBDI Colors and Numbers

Preference Code

The preference code is made up of four numbers placed in order of the quadrants: ABCD. Each of the quadrants has 3 possible numbers assigned to it, 1 corresponds to a strong preference (above 66), 2 corresponds to general preference (33 – 66), and 3 is a negative preference – that is, an avoidance (0-33).

For example, Tim has an ‘2111’ profile which means that he has a strong preference for thinking in Yellow, Red and Green, and a general preference for thinking in Blue. Tim has no 3 scores which would be quadrants that Tim wishes to avoid.

Adjective Pairs

During the HBDI questionnaire, individuals are asked to choose between 12 pairs of adjectives designed to explore thinking under pressure. There are a total of 24 points distributed across the 4 quadrants as a result of these questions. This creates the dotted line preference on the graph showing someones profile under pressure.

In Tim’s case this means that when he is under pressure he chooses to think more in the Blue quadrant, which is about logic and facts but his ability to plan and structure himself goes out the window!

Profile Scores

The potential scores range from 8 to 189. The higher the score the more an individual prefers to think in a particular quadrant.

The numbers simply represent a person’s preference in a particular area. It is important to stress , however, that everyone can think in all 4 quadrants. It is about preference. Tim thinks yellow (score of 104), which means that he can be pretty high level most of the time, often happy to make decisions in a conceptual framework rather than based entirely in facts and data!

What does the dotted line mean?

The stressed profile on the right, or the dotted line, shows how Tim prefers to think under stress or pressure. Tim tends to require more data and become much more logical (as depicted by the dotted line expanding in the Blue Quadrant). At the same time Tim loses some of his Green, or Planning and Organising preferences as can be seen by the retraction of the dotted line into the inner circle in the Green quadrant.
The 4 percentages on the HBDI chart show how much Tim thinks in different preference areas linked to parts of the brain. Top versus bottom, and left versus right.

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Why Bother Getting to Know My Profile Better?

One of the core principles behind self improvement is self awareness and the HBDI® is a fantastic tool for enabling this. By understanding yourself better individuals can ‘play to their strengths’ and manage the areas where they are not so strong much better.

Understanding yourself, and by extension others enables people to rapidly improve their communication skills. This includes:

– Speaking to others in ‘their language’,

– Give feedback how they need to hear it, and

– Understand the relative strengths and weaknesses in a team.

These are just a few of the advantages for individuals in knowing their profile well.

To help with bringing the HBDI® life the Herrmann have built a Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument Test App ® . This comes as a standard part of the app. The idea is that you can show your profile to someone and they show you theirs. Compare and understand each other better.

What other Psychometric Tools are in the Marketplace?

Psychometric assessment tools are a powerful way to manage people and ensure that individuals are ‘Fit for Role’ and performing at their best. They can assist in finding and providing insights into individuals skills, knowledge and personality traits.

They are often heavily used for recruitment and selection programs and are often ideally suited to provide useful data for the management of teams and team building programs. Leadership development and ultimately success in all types of organisations.

These tools are also often used in individual and executive coaching programs as a tdool for developing self awareness.

There are many psychometric tests available in the marketplace and these focus on a range of specific areas including but not limited to:

– Measuring particular skills
– Measuring potential aptitude,
– Identifying preferences
– Rating specific traits.
– Identifying specific personality traits
Below is an overview of the psychometric tests that we use and some other tools used in the marketplace.

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The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (or HBDI®)

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (or HBDI®) is a psychometric assessment. It’s focus is how individuals prefer to think. Specialists in this tool refer to it as the ‘Whole Brain Model’ as it provides insights into our thinking preferences. In doing so it highlights the diversity of different thinking styles and how these add enormous value to organisations and teams.

The Profiles Sales Assessment™ (PSA)

The Profiles Sales Assessment™ (PSA) measures how well a person fits specific sales roles in a company or organisation. It is primarily utilised for the selection, on-boarding and ongoing managing of sales people, account managers and associated teams. The “job profiling” feature of this tool is unique and customisable by company, organisation, role, department, manager, geography, or any combination of these.

This enables the evaluation of an employee or prospective employee relative to the qualities required to perform a specific sales role successfully in a specific organisation. It also predicts on-the-job performance in seven critical sales behaviours: prospecting, call reluctance, closing the sale, self- starting, teamwork, building and maintaining relationships, and compensation preference.

The ProfileXT® (PXT)

The ProfileXT® (PXT) assessment measures how well an individual fits specific jobs within an organisation. The “job profiling” feature of this tool is unique and customisable by company, organisation, role, department, manager, geography, or any combination of these.

It is used all through the employee lifecycle for recruitment, selection, on-boarding, management and strategic workforce planning.

Profiles Performance Indicator™ (PPI)

The Profiles Performance Indicator™ (PPI) is a DISC-type assessment that reveals insights regarding an individual’s job performance as well as aspects of their personality. This is very relevant when this can impact their fit with their manager, coworkers, and team.

We use it primarily for motivating and coaching employees, as well as resolving post hire conflict and performance issues.

Genos Emotional Intelligence Assessments

The Genos model shown below comprises a set of emotionally intelligent workplace behaviour competencies. Competencies represent skills and behaviours, based on underlying abilities and experiences, that are measurable and observable. The six emotionally intelligent leadership competencies of the Genos model capture the skills and behaviours that manifest from emotional intelligence abilities.

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)

Analyses an individual’s personality traits, classifying them according to Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types:

– Extraversion/introversion,

– Sensing/intuition

– Thinking/feeling, and

– Judging/perceiving

This assessment is another that is very popular within the Corporate Environment.

Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)

This assessment measures how an individual behaves when presented with a conflict situation. It helps identify the dimensions, assertiveness and cooperativeness of an individuals preferences when faced with conflict situations. This tool is used in our Executive Coaching and conflict resolution programs.

Other tools in the marketplace.

The Belbin Team Inventory

This tool is also known as the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, the Belbin Team Role Inventory, BSPI or BTRI. It is an assessment focussed on behaviour. It was created by Meredith Belbin to measure behavioural preferences for nine different team roles: plant, resource investigator, coordinator, shaper, monitor evaluator, teamworker, implementer, completer finisher and specialist.

The GC Index

This is a traditional profiling tool with a distinct focus on a person’s preferred style when contributing to a role or company. It uses the following categories: implementer, polisher, playmaker, strategist and game changer.

Hogan Development Survey (HDS)

The Hogan Development Survey measures an individual’s tendencies when under pressure and stress. It can help create awareness for individuals about the side of their personality that emerges when under stress and pressure. These can sometimes be negative and damage relationships and negatively impact on long-term success.

Big Five Personality Traits

This assessment is also known as the five-factor model (FFM) and consists of a series of statements that a participant is required to agree or disagree with. This tool measures: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.

Management Styles Inventory (MSI)

This is a self-scored tool that evaluates the effect on co-worker potential of an individual’s style of management. It explores the manager’s assumptions and priorities about the relationship between concerns for performance and concerns for people.

There are many more Psychometric tests and assessments available in the market. We only use valid and reliable tools that have a demonstrated positive impact in the workplace when used effectively.

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How does the HBDI compare to other Psychometric Assessments?

The important question when comparing Psychometric Tools is not really which one is better than the other but rather which one is the right solution for the challenges you are trying to address. In our experience the HBDI is a valid and reliable Psychometric Tool that resonates with individuals in the work place and is easy for individuals to adopt. It has enough complexity to deal with the real world without overwhelming individuals and teams. It provides exceptional Return on Investment (ROI) when introduced to teams effectively.

The following Paper written by Hermann looks at HBDI and other assessments and how they can work together.

Is the HBDI a Valid Tool.

The question of whether a tool is valid or not is critical when using any psychometric tools and the HBDI is no exception. Hermann have conducted a number of validation studies that demonstrate the tools validity. These include studies by academic institution at Berkeley, California, and the University of Texas. All of these studies have resulting in positive validation for the HBDI. As experts in this field we consider this to be rare.

How Do We Use the HBDI?

We use HBDI for in many of our programs including:

Executive Coaching

Team Building

Diversity Programs

Cultural Change

Leadership Development

Communication and Negotiation

The HBDI also comes with specific programs focussed on Thinking, Writing, Coaching, Communicating, Selling, Problem Solving and The Whole Brain Manager.

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