A New Predictive Tool Worth Exploring

By: Anthony McCarley

The BBC article, 'The secrets of the ‘high-potential’ personality', offers fascinating predictive tools for anyone who enjoys to study performance. 

Psychologists have now identified six traits that mark out high achievers – and like most good things, they are best served in moderation. Hard to disagree that the six traits identified are important.  We tend to call “Conscientiousness” “Tenacity” – but the meaning is similar. And the point about moderation is a good one.  It has been know for a long time that a person’s greatest strength is often also their greatest weakness.

It is a little easier to argue with “Ambiguity acceptance”.  We have found that most successful people are laser beam focused on a goal.  Yes, there are many shifting factors (changing circumstances) in any long term success, but there is genius in simplicity.  If simplicity is a problem – then the simplification was poorly done.

Their definition of “Competitiveness” appears to be binary.  In most cases in business and life, the real battle of competitiveness isn’t with others – it is with self.  For you to become a success – to become your best, doesn’t mean others can’t.  Success isn’t typically a zero-sum game.  Think of Monet, Renoir and the other Impressionists working together – bringing out the best in each other.

We break down “Curiosity” into multiple parts – be a life-long learner, (respect and) learn from everyone, learn from failure, and learn from the experiences of others.

As the author of the article points out, it is also interesting what this predictive tool leaves out.  The most glaring is “ethics”.   I know a company where the highest level executives most likely would have scored well on all six traits of this predictive tool, but many of them ended up costing the company billions of dollars in market cap and spending time in jail.  If I were a hiring company, I would want to measure ethical traits.

As is the problem with many predictive performance tools, they attempt to simplify in a clumsy way.  People are more complex than 4, 6, or 100 traits.  The real challenge isn’t to identify traits that identify high-potential.  The more impactful challenge is to define success.  


Onward and upward,


Michelle Martinez