After a long hiatus on blogging, I’m back! The craziness that was last year has calmed down and I’m committed to getting back posting twice a week again. Thanks for your patience. 🙂
I’m going to do some longer-form posts and split them up into more digestible chunks. Here’s the first part of my thoughts on the DISC personality model and how you might use it as a lens for IRL Experience Design.
Introduction to the DISC Model
Years ago I took an outstanding series of sales classes. One of the first things we were introduced to was the DISC model of personality traits. . The idea of the model is that if you understand these differences you can facilitate better interpersonal interactions and teamwork.
The DISC model is widely used in various contexts, including organizational development, leadership training, and personal growth, to improve self-awareness, enhance communication, and build more effective relationships.
Keep in mind that this is just a model. It is not reality and does not account for all the infinite nuances of each person’s distinct being.
That said, I’ve personally found these generalizations to be extremely helpful in both sales and personal interactions. I hope that by sharing them, you may gain an additional perspective to apply in real-life experience design.
The DISC Model Traits
DISC is an acronym for the four personality traits in the model:
- D (Dominance): Individuals who score high in this dimension tend to be assertive, competitive, and direct. They are often goal-oriented and prefer to lead rather than follow. Dominant types like to take charge and make decisions quickly, and they may be less concerned with others’ opinions or feelings.
- I (Influence): Those with high scores in Influence are typically social, persuasive, and enthusiastic. They are good communicators, enjoy building relationships, and are often seen as charismatic. Influential types are usually optimistic and like to inspire or motivate others, but they might struggle with details or organization.
- S (Steadiness): People who exhibit high Steadiness are generally cooperative, reliable, and calm. They value consistency and stability, prefer a steady pace, and are supportive team members. Steady individuals are good listeners and mediators, often putting the needs of others above their own, which can sometimes lead to over-accommodation.
- C (Conscientiousness): Those who are high in Conscientiousness are detail-oriented, analytical, and value accuracy. They follow rules and procedures, are good at planning and organizing, and prioritize quality in their work. Conscientious types may appear reserved or detached, and they can be overly critical or indecisive due to their focus on perfection.
When you take the DISC inventory questionnaire it will give your results in scores for each category. Each person has primary trait they exhibit, but it’s also insightful to consider the secondary trait and any traits that are particularly low. Not that low is bad – knowing what is low helps keep you from steering into opportunities that are not going to be fulfilling for you.
It’s important to note that in the DISC model, no one style is considered better or worse than another; each has its unique strengths and challenges.
Here is the official site of DISC. There are some free tests online, but my experience is that they didn’t match the official test results and were very simplified.
Identifying Traits in Others
As you read each description above, a friend or colleague may have come to mind. You might easily identify yourself as well. Many people are easy to categorize even with just a little interaction or knowledge of them.
For example, if someone tells me they’ve been doing engineering for 20 years, I immediately thing “C”. If someone is a well-dressed CEO who speaks curtly, clearly a “D”. Someone energetic that smiles a lot? “I”. The friend that always lends a shoulder to cry or lean on? “S”. Someone is is meticulously organized? “C”.
Nearly all the sales techniques and approaches we covered involved quickly identifying the prospect’s style and then accommodating and “speaking their language”. The sales materials had detailed profiles of each type and many examples. One I remember in particular was “don’t touch dominant types”.
One of the best things about this model (and it is just a model – not reality!) is that you can get pretty good at figuring out how to address a person once you know what to look for. It’s easy to remember and apply this simple 4 type model versus the 16 combinations of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).
Until I was introduced to this model, I just assumed some people were just jerks but they were really just D’s. Their cold curtness is not personal. (Usually). While I still don’t like to deal with super Dominant types, I now at least realize it doesn’t have anything to do with me. Also, it’s not likely that my friendliness will turn them around (in reality it makes things worse), so I’m better off finding people more my type if that’s an option.
Again, since this is a model, it isn’t full-proof or perfect. You may need to adjust your interactions as you get to know an individual.
But this model has definitely improved my relations with others. It helps you make a best guess about how a person might like to be communicated with and the types of things they might like to talk about or do.
And it really does seem like most people have a strongest trait.
So with that in mind, let’s talk about…
DISC Traits and IRL Experience Design
So what does DISC have to do with IRL Experience Design?
Let’s say you have one person of each type and you are going to create an experience for them. Suppose they each are very strongly their type. Let’s go through some potential experiences.
DISC Playing Out in an Escape Room
Suppose your work team has gone to an escape room for some team building. You’re put in the room and the person running the room tells you they’ll be right back. What happens in the interim?
The I’s are chit chatting, joking, and/or pumping people up to solve it. They are here to have fun.
The C’s aren’t paying attention to any of that but instead already started examining the room even though the clock hasn’t even started. The Cs want to solve problems and use logic and this is exactly the kind of thing they dig into – why waste time talking to people when there are problems to solve? They’re here to solve puzzles.
The S’s get frustrated that the C’s are not involved in the friendly conversation – this is supposed to be team building after all! The’re also not very excited about what looks like a cold experience built for “the smart people” They are here to connect with their team.
While the C’s are examining the room and thinking about solutions, the D’s have already started. They are already touching stuff and trying to figure it out. They might even be brute forcing some items. It looks like it needs a key but maybe it can just be pried open without it, they think. They’re here to win.
After the game master comes back, the game begins and the personality types continue to play out in a similar way. The I’s are joking around. The C’s are silenting solving puzzles. The D’s are focused on winning and getting it over with. And the S’s are disappointed because it was suppose to be team building. The S’s hang out with the I’s – at least they’ll be social. The D’s start to organize the efforts of the C’s so that things can get done faster.
The C’s are the ones enjoying it the most because the experience is mainly a “C” experience.
DISC Playing Out in a Facilitated Share and Learn Offsite
Imagine a team-building event designed so that employees can get to know each other’s personal lives better. Nothing too personal, but a little personal. How does this play out with the DISC types?
The S’s love, love, love this. It lets them ask so many questions they’ve always wanted to ask of their coworkers. They will ask questions, share their stories and love the feelings of personal connection.
The I’s will be jokey and enjoy it so long as it doesn’t get too serious. If things shared are sad or personal, they’ll start thinking the session has gone off track. Team Building to them is supposed to be fun.
The C’s will feel awkward and just not get it and do the minimum that still meets the stated rules. They might do this because they are private but they might also do this because they simply don’t have the skills to share or listen in the way that is being asked of the.
The D’s will get on their phones and start looking for new jobs.
To Be Continued
In my next post, I will talk about creating experiences with DISC in mind and marketing to DISC types.