The Art of Contradiction

Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Walt Whitman

Song of Myself

John is a machinist. He creates custom-made parts for specialized devices that need an exceptionally high degree of precision. John is precise. He acknowledges he's the best machinist in the region. His unprepossessing workshop may not suggest components for naval submarine optics, for example.

John is not a logger. He trained as a logger and worked as a logger. Nonetheless, he'll tell you who the two or three people in the region who are better loggers than he is.

I was with him when he observed a couple of adequate but not precise loggers taking on some trees on a nearby property. He walked over and took their chainsaw. He stepped up to a tree, "First you cut the box." and then made the cut that would determine how the tree would fall. "Then you cut the hinge." and made the cut that dropped the tree safely and accurately. It was an amazing demonstration executed perfectly.

John is not a welder. John will tell you who the two or three people in the region who are better welders than he is. At the same time, his work as a machinist includes his doing high-precision welding.

Imagine these identities described here were assigned by a test. Let's use a quadrant. It forces us to simplify to four, the symmetry is pleasing, and it looks scientific. All in all, less to think about.

Quadrant 1: Machinist

You're optimized for precision. You get the right thing into the right place at the right time

Quadrant 2: Logger

You're optimized for staying at the cutting edge. You take high-level problems and bring them down to earth.

Quadrant 3: Welder

You're optimized for bringing things together. You're a uniter; not a divider

Quadrant 4: Journalist

You're optimized to stand around and watch. You don't do a damn thing, which gives you time to tell other people's stories.

I had a student in my journalism class who asked if she could write a weekly horoscope for our student newspaper in place of other assignments. Every week, she made it up with support from the other students. There was no effort into accuracy. The goal was to be engaging and funny.

It was the most popular feature in our student newspaper. People like identities, maybe especially when they're not real. No thinking involved whatsoever.

In fact, the real machinist, loggers, welder, and journalist achieved those roles usually through decades of persistence, experience, learning, and re-learning. Those identities, for John most spectacularly, were just a starting point to begin understanding these people's competence, and were just a small insight into a whole series of contexts that contributed to the richness of their individuality.

Are all these assessments best fit for the compost pile?

Nearly every assessment fails the validity test. Most of them give the descriptor first, then ask if the description matches the person assigned to it. This cognitively biases one to look for ways the description is correct.

Validity confirmation first requires identifying a person with a set of characteristics. Only then is the person given the assessment. Validity is established through matching the assessment-driven set of characteristics with the ones identified prior to the assessment.

Here are four that pass the validity test, and will have a powerful return on investment if used as directed and under the conditions for which they have been designed

MMPI Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory

Designed to help clinicians in psychiatry and psychology identify effective treatment when the clinical diagnosis is ambiguous. With 567 questions delivered by a trained clinician, it's highly specific and comprehensive. It follows the medical model of healthy/not healthy so can struggle with the distinction between a difference and a disorder. In short, it's kind of judgy. By its own terms, it offers a "starting point."

Weschler Adult Intelligence Scale

Occupying the standard for IQ tests, its own definition calls it a "psychometric measure of adult cognitive ability." It measures cognitive energy and attention in 10 cognitive categories. Rather than seeing it as a defining measure of fixed intelligence, the ten categories are best seen as indicators for specific instruction and strategy development rather than for strengths or weaknesses. In fact, highest scores on IQ tests are associated with any number of mental and physical disorders. Best to see this assessment as a starting point for a clinical diagnosis of learning acquisition.

The Big Five

Assessments based on five emotional responses to information: Neuroticism (N), Extraversion (E), Openness to Experience (O), Agreeableness (A), and Conscientiousness (C). Most personality tests are a muddy mix of cognitive and emotional response without clearly distinguishing between the two. By contrast, assessments based on these five expressions offer the strongest validity match between prior observation and assessment. Look for ones that offer data on the strength of the subject's response to each of these categories without transposing that into a set of types. These aren't identities, they're tendencies.

The Kairos Assessment

This is the boldest statement, since the Kairos Assessment is controlled by Kairos Cognition of which I'm the CEO and stakeholder.

Based on seven cognitive responses to information, the Kairos Assessment measures your energetic response to the two cognitive processes that do most of the work of managing information, and to the five cognitive processes that leverage information in and out. These are your cognitive reflexes that determine your cognitive preferences. Because they're reflexes, the assessment needs only 53 questions to get a reliable response from each one.

• There are no ideal preferences

• Your report doesn't predict intelligence or job suitability

• Your preferences impact you powerfully, but you don't have to be stuck there.

I'm going to let two people, who know that having the sharpest possible edge matters, speak to their experience.

General John Michel, Ph.D, USAF (retired)

This is the only assessment I have used in my career that provides instant clarity. Unlike many other performance tools we have used in the military, it provides real-time insights into our behaviors and thinking--as well as easy steps we can employ immediately.

Astronaut, Lt. Col. Catherine Coleman, PhD, USAF (retired)

Hear her description of having been introduced to Kairos when she was on the International Space Station.

By the way, John the Machinist displays active Sequential and Essential Observer on the Kairos Assessment: a starting point.

Warm regards,

Francis Sopper

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