Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pop Culture Personality Inventories

At least as far back as the stories that are attributed to Shakespeare, storytellers recognized that there were several unique personality types that would create entertaining situations when faced with various types of life situations (e.g. the seven recurring themes). Fast forward to today's exploitation of polar opposites through television shows that swap wives and put people in highly stressful situations (e.g. on a barren island or in a singing competition), and we see that pop psychology continues to deliver results. However, it is rare for anyone to effectively cross-reference the archetypes used for entertainment and those used for professional psychological classification. That is why I am very excited to have found an online version of an article that led to a great discussion at the 1998 ASTD international conference and exposition.

In San Francisco at least 6,000 people gathered (4,500 were vendors I think) to swap, borrow, or buy ideas about corporate training and development. At that time a very active listserv group used the international ASTD conference as a chance to meet face-to-face anually. This group was known as the "red shirts". We had an affinity for debate and for freely sharing best practices. In San Francisco several of us lingered long after the other red shirts had retired to thier hotel rooms. The topic that drove our passion that evening was the creation of a pop culture personality inventory that would become fabulously popular with corporations (assuming that we would be granted licensing rights to the show that we leveraged). Many of us were in favor of using the personalities from Gilligan's Island. Others wanted to use a more progressive and popular show such as Friends. The entire conversation was sparked by a 1996 article by Lise Mendel that was intended for use in the creation of role playing games. You can once again read that article because it was posted online here.

Has anyone created or used a team personality or individual personality assessment that is based on a popular book, movie, television show, etc? If so, please comment on this post so that we can all benefit from your experience and insight.

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