A Blizzard of Bad Judgment

In the past 10 days, much of the country has been blanketed by snow, courtesy of a blizzard that swept through the Midwest and buried the Hogan offices under nearly 30 inches. Stores closed, events were cancelled, businesses sent everyone home, and most of the area hunkered down and braced for the worst. The local meteorologists provided marathon sessions of analysis and updates, warning everyone not to go outside unless absolutely necessary. In the following days, the city cleanup crews described their efforts to clear the streets, noting that the largest obstacle was the number of abandoned cars on the road. This included cars deserted in the middle of the street, on the side of the road, on highway ramps, and just about everywhere.

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Losing Jobs: The Problem of Succession Management

Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs recently announced that he will take yet another medical leave of absence with an unspecified return date. His announcement was followed by much discussion and debate about when and whether he will return. This news re-awakened the debate among worried stockholders and industry analysts who are sweating out the question of whether or not the Sultan of Silicon Valley can be replaced. As reported by the LA Times, Apple’s shares fell 6.45% immediately after markets opened the day following Jobs’ announcement. Consequently, stockholders are putting the pressure on the board to publicize a succession plan. Why the sudden iPanic? Many believe that Jobs’ vision and innovation is integral to the success and brand image of Apple, and that he simply cannot be replaced. Admittedly, Jobs’ uncanny ability to predict, or even create, market demand for consumer technology products has catapulted Apple to undeniable success over the years. So the question remains – can Jobs be replaced?

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Competency Mapping & Assessments

You don’t have to be in the professional world long before you will likely encounter some form of a competency model in your organization. While the development of an effective competency model is no small task, the end result is simple, easy to understand, and very effective at establishing a framework for success. When developed correctly and with the support of the organization, a competency model can be an effective foundation for strategic staffing, training and development, and performance management. However, that is where the simplicity ends.

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The Kids Are All Right…Derailers and All

I am the proud father of three children: a 4-year-old boy, a 4-year-old girl, and a 7-month-old baby girl. As you might assume, the 4-year-olds are twins. I have observed many things that have amazed me with the twins over the past 4 years. One observation was that a multitude of people, from strangers at the shopping mall to professionals with PhDs, would ask me if the boy and girl were identical. I would, of course, politely respond “no.” I wanted to say that not only did these children not result from the splitting of a single zygote, but there is a very fundamental difference between the anatomy of a boy and a girl that prevent them from being identical!

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Why Validity Matters

Personality psychology concerns three questions. First, in what important ways are people all alike? This question involves analyzing the nature of human nature. Second, in what important and systematic ways are people all different? This question concerns individual differences. The third question concerns how to measure, in a reliable and valid manner, important individual differences in personality? These measures can then be used to predict practical outcomes—e.g., job performance, career and financial success.

But why are personality data so useful? The reason is simple: (1) The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior; (2) A person’s personality (defined in terms of observer’s ratings) is the summary of that person’s past behavior; so that (3) Personality (defined in terms of observers’ ratings) is the best data source we have regarding a person’s future behavior. Our assessments are keyed into observer ratings and provide an objective way to predict a wide variety of life outcomes, including life expectancy, marital satisfaction , substance abuse, and career and financial success.

The principal statistic used in our research (as well as research in economics, sociology, and medicine) is the Pearson correlation coefficient (r). The value of r can range from -1 (a perfect negative association between two variables) to 0 (no relationship between two variables) to +1 (a perfect positive association between two variables). The validity coefficients found in most medical research are below .20. For example, the correlation between smoking and contracting lung cancer within 25 years is .08; the correlation between taking ibuprofen and reduced pain is .14. Typical validities in psychological studies tend to be higher. For example, the correlation between applicants’ scores in a personnel selection interview (which is an inefficient form of personality assessment) and subsequent job performance is .30, and the correlation between IQ scores and school grades is .70. Our research over the past 30 years has produced validity coefficients that are significantly higher than those typically found in published medical or economic research.

Personality and industrial/organizational psychologists use correlation coefficients to predict individual differences in peoples’ present or future performance. The best way to interpret a correlation is in terms of hits and misses. Imagine we have tested 200 sales candidates on the HPI Ambition scale, and then hired all of them; Figure 1 shows the expected percentages of high and low performers as a function of the validity of the ambition scale, using validities of .00, .20, .30, and .50.

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