By Liisa Labno
NeuroColor co-founder, biological anthropologist and neuroscientist Dr. Helen Fisher speaks across the globe on the biology of personality. She is a TED All-Star; she has spoken at the World Economic Forum, Davos, The Aspen Institute, The Economist and many other business conferences; and she has been named one of “the 15 most amazing women in science today” by Business Insider. Fisher’s groundbreaking brain research has shown how understanding inborn personality style can increase the effectiveness of teams and improve how individuals collaborate, resolve conflict, sell, innovate and lead.
Our “Helen Presents” series of blog posts gives you a front row seat to Helen’s lectures and her scientific analysis of the complex personalities of her business talk attendees.
If you close your eyes and picture a software engineer, what personality style comes to mind? NeuroColor co-founder Dr. Helen Fisher recently spoke to a group of software engineers at a major international software company known for its highly sought-after work environment and its careful vetting of employees.
She invited attendees to take her workplace questionnaire, the NeuroColor Temperament Inventory, which measures the user’s degree of agreement (and disagreement) with the array of traits linked with the dopamine, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen systems in the brain. Her audience members held a variety of roles in the company – and included eleven software engineers.
Upon completing the questionnaire via our NeuroColor app, each attendee received their unique “personality signature,” representing the degree to which they expressed (and didn’t express) the traits associated with each of these four broad basic brain systems, as well as their predisposition for introversion or extroversion, and their typical communication style at work. Of the eleven software engineers (three women and eight men) who took the NeuroColor inventory, their similarities were as striking as their differences.
Keep in mind that the pressure was off. The group was taking the NeuroColor questions simply to apply Dr. Fisher’s concepts to their own personalities while attending her speech.
As a group, the men and the women were all more expressive of the traits linked with “systems thinking” than the average NeuroColor user. Psychologist Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen defines systems thinking, or “systemizing,” as “the drive to analyze or construct systems.” That system could be a car engine, a computer code or the ecology of a pond. Among the software engineers in Dr. Fisher’s audience, ten of the eleven reported that they were highly expressive of the traits linked with systems thinking.
They were also more likely to be introverts than the average NeuroColor user. For example, when asked whether they re-energized by seeking out people (extroversion) or by spending time alone (introversion), nine of the eleven indicated that they were introverts. Only two expressed a preference for extroversion.
As a group, their communication style was also more “reserved” (as opposed to “outgoing”) than our average NeuroColor user. Seven of the eleven engineers reported that they were more reserved at work; one indicated that he was more outgoing; and the remaining three scored close to the mid-line, ranging from an outgoing to a reserved communication style, depending on the situation.
Nevertheless, the group was quite diverse in other aspects of personality structure.
Four (of the eleven) were highest in Green (NeuroColor’s term for those individuals who express many of the traits linked with the estrogen system). These men and women are typically contextual thinkers, as well as empathetic, inclusive, cooperative, contemplative and aware of the deeper meanings in a situation.
NOTE: In our workplace consulting, NeuroColor uses four colors (yellow, blue, red and green) to represent the traits linked with each of these four broad brain systems - because the human brain remembers color more readily than words.
Three were highest in Blue (expressing more traits linked with the serotonin system). Men and women high in Blue particularly like to work with concrete facts rather than hypotheticals; they also highly value tradition, prefer the tried-and-true, like plans and schedules, are detail-oriented and tend to be most comfortable approaching situations in a cautious, structured manner.
Two were highest in Yellow (linked with the dopamine system). Men and women who are high in Yellow tend to be curious, energetic, inventive and future-oriented. They are often enthusiastic, adaptable and enjoy exploring all sorts of new ideas and possibilities.
One was highest in Red (linked with the testosterone system). Men and women who are high in Red are often decisive, tough-minded and direct, as well as systems thinkers who analyze an issue by looking at how each variable affects the overall system. (Even though ten of the eleven software engineers were particularly expressive of traits linked with systems thinking, many scored lower on other testosterone-linked traits, hence Red was not their overall highest color score.)
The remaining software engineer was equally high in both Red and Blue traits. This is not unusual, as we all express some of the traits in all four of these brain systems. We simply express some of these biologically-based characteristics more than others - making each of us a unique individual.
The diversity of personality styles seen among the eleven software engineers highlights why NeuroColor focuses on one’s “personality signature.” Instead of reducing an individual to a “type,” it captures the nuances of one’s unique personality structure (including who they are and who they are not) - providing vital clues to better communication with them.
And here is the point. These software engineers were largely systems thinkers, as well as introverted (rather than extroverted) and reserved (rather than outgoing). However, some were also more cautious; others more empathetic; others more future oriented, and much more. All had a nuanced personality signature, arising from their unique combination of traits in all four brain systems. If their co-workers look for behavioral and conversational clues to the unique personality signature of each individual engineer – rather than relying on stereotypes or focusing on their dominant “type,” they will have opportunity after opportunity to connect with their colleagues in powerful new ways.
Liisa Labno is Director of Content and Intellectual Property at NeuroColor, which offers neuroscience-based personality assessment and consulting. NeuroColor is the first company in the world to directly use neuroscience to measure how you naturally think, communicate, work, innovate and lead.
© 2016, NeuroColor, LLC