I recently participated in a group exercise, the type of which I hadn’t seen since my days in large-corporation cubicle-land — the quadrant exercise. If you work in a creative or professional corporate group dynamic, you have been, are being, or will be subjected to this. It’s an exercise that after a few questions, is supposed to dissect your psyche, and wonder of wonders, show you the type of personality you are. It usually culminates with charts like these:
I strongly dislike this type of exercise for several reasons:
1) They tend to make the person being ‘analyzed’ feel like this:
Then again, my view may be jaundiced by a bad experience I had during one quadrant exercise. The ‘professional’ who ran that instance years ago told me in front of the whole group, “Wow, you really are messed up!” Gosh, thanks. Aren’t you glad I don’t fall into the ‘axe-wielding psychopath’ quadrant?
2) Who believes that everyone can be pigeonholed into nice neat categories? There are two types of people in this world — those who believe there are two types of people in this world, and those who know better.
3) Who believes that such a blunt analysis tool will make a person change?
The accuracy of this exercise strikes me as truly pointless. It is simply too blunt a behavioral-modification tool to be useful. It’s like driving a thumbtack with a sledgehammer.
The time factor also weighs against the efficacy of this exercise. People go to psychiatrists, religious counseling, self-help groups, or 12-step programs for years and years, yet still struggle with the same problems they had when they started. How is an hour-long exercise is going to solve anyone’s deep-seated anything?
4) Do the people who administer this exercise truly think that if a person can be categorized in one of these groups, that they are static? …that the result
of such an exercise wouldn’t change from day to day, from hour to hour?
Humans are complex creatures, and they can be influenced by the countless minutia that bombard them incessantly. And their response could vary with the weather, that song that they can’t get out of their head, an odor in the room, the color of the walls, or how well their last meal is settling in their gut. Not only that, but each person is an amalgam. They have different faces, different moods, different motivations. Today a person may be ‘goal-oriented’, tomorrow be ‘reflective’, next week be a ‘team builder’.
This exercise is a snapshot – as temporal and as meaningful as a ‘selfie.’ The assumption that the person being evaluated is like this, has always been like this, and will always be like this (until this exercise magically changes them) is dangerously naive. This exercise can delude the subject into believing they need to change something that may have been strictly environmental, or even worse destroy something that makes their personality unique and precious.
On the other hand, let’s assume for a moment that this exercise does have some innate worth. If so, it must be done on a continuous basis, not ‘once-and-done’.
5) The precept that the audience participating in this exercise is new to self-analysis is simply wrong.
Whenever I’ve seen this exercise presented, it was to groups of people who are curious, thoughtful, searching, creative, artistic, mental vacuum cleaners who gather every scrap of information that they encounter. To think that such an audience has never encountered the concept of self-analysis is silly.
In my latest experience, the quadrant exercise was presented to a group of writers. It seems to me that as a whole, writers already undergo a self-examination of sorts on a daily basis.
Take my own meager example — whenever I write fiction, I am constantly putting myself into my character’s heads, examining their motives, picturing their reactions. And the question of ‘is it believable?’ is foremost in my mind. Such a process must reflect back on the author. Why would my character do or think this? Could anyone do/think this? Would I do/think this?
So my word of wisdumb for the day – take it or leave it as you see fit — take the ‘quadrant exercise’ with a jumbo-economy-size grain of salt.