Business

The Humm Handbook (Chris Golis): A review

The Humm Handbook: Lifting Your Level of Emotional Intelligence is a book by Christopher Golis that presents a personality modelling framework named “Humm-Wadsworth” . The Humm-Wadsworth model (abbreviated to Humm) attempts to describe human personality in terms of sets of common traits and desires that are found in all people to greater or lesser degrees.

The framework is specifically marketed as a business tool, that when applied can increase our emotional intelligence and our ability to deal with people — an essential tool for managers in the business world.

As I am personally very interested in personality models, and have spent some time in this area, after reading this book I thought I’d put together this review with some thoughts.

Summary of review

The book contains a model that could be useful, and the open conversation about personalities and attempts to understand people and what motivates them are good things. There’s a lot that could be learned by reading and contemplating the ideas in the book. However, I offer some specific criticisms of the presentation of the model that I think could improve the quality and credibility of the book overall.

1.0 Theoretical Foundations

1.1 Introduction — understanding people is a worthy effort

Before we go into any detail about the model itself, it’s important to acknowledge the “worthiness of the cause”. Trying to understand what drives and motivates others is generally a good thing, assuming we’re coming from the right place intention-wise (seeking out “win-win” relationships, not with the attempt to manipulate).

On this note, in the book, Golis says:

“We all categorise people all the time. No one approaches anybody without doing some classification. We automatically see people as ‘male or female’, ‘attractive or unattractive’, ‘friend or enemy’, ‘good or bad’ etc. It is dishonest to think we don’t do this. What is far better is to have a consistent and scientific model of behaviour to understand other people or ourselves.”

This was definitely a statement I could agree with. It’s the nature of the human mind to identify patterns. We are going to model folks anyway, so why not seek out better models?

With that as a background “common understanding”, let’s talk about this model.

1.2 Can we model personality (“scientifically”)?

It seems to be a genuine question whether we can reliably model personalities. From my research in the professional psychological world, this doesn’t seem to be perfectly clear. While a personality test might be very popular in the business world, the professional psychological community at large seems to ignore or discredit them (it’s also difficult to interpret precisely what the implications of this discrepancy are — are personality tests / profiles totally incredible, or are they just not useful for the kinds of problems psychologists face in their therapeutic work?).

I’ve even heard a psychologist say “there’s no such thing as personality, it’s just a construct”. I found this difficult to believe.

Unfortunately in the book Golis doesn’t spend much time defending the concept of personality and personality tests generally, he more so jumps straight to this particular model. So for the skeptical audience, I think a bit more groundwork would have been necessary, or this lack of defense of the concept of personality might have been perceived as a sleight of hand.

If I were to attempt this, my defense of the effort to model human personality / temperament done in this book would go something like this:

  1. Words like “aggressive” exist for a reason. This is because human beings, by observing the behaviour of other human beings, noticed certain trends or patterns. Words evolved to represent those patterns. Hence you can make sense of a statement such as “Shawn is very aggressive”. This sentence is intelligible because you know what “aggressive” means as at some point in the past you learned this label in reference to real-life behaviour.
  2. Words exist in a space where there are clusters of meaning. “Aggressive” is similar to “contentious” (while not being identical). Hence some degree of grouping is possible. Other words exist that have larger or more broad scopes, and could subsume other concepts.
  3. Hence, if you continue to group similar words together, eventually you’ll come out with roughly discreet archetypes. The more you aggregate the micro “words” used to describe people’s behaviour the more you’ll come out with higher-level type that subsumes them.
  4. Eventually, this process will yield a smaller number of personality “types”. Their boundaries will be fuzzy and imprecise, there may be some overlap between them, but they may be somewhat useful.

My understanding is that something like the argument above is where the Big 5 comes from. It could also be used to defend the attempts made by the Humm-Wadsworth model. (See the Lexical Hypothesis). From that point it would be a matter of arguing that these personality types were derived from analysis of (something?). This is where I am unclear, however, in this document on Golis’ site he adds more of this theoretical background, explaining that the original concepts and ideas modeled in this book originate from mental illnesses (it’s also in the book). The segue from model of mental illness to a model of desires is not entirely clear to me, perhaps it requires more explanation.

Critique #1: For the skeptics among us, more time could be spent defending the concept of personality profiling generally, and explaining the theoretical segue from mental illness to desires as the background of Humm-Wadsworth. 

1.3 Can we test a person’s personality reliably?

Let’s assume from the arguments above then that:

  1. this thing we’re calling “personality” does exist, and
  2. it can be modeled (somewhat accurately) somehow.

We then run into the next problem, which in my opinion is the more genuine problem: how do we reliably test someone’s personality and place them into a category described by our model?

As far as I understand, this is where more problems lie. Can someone take the test multiple times and reliably arrive at the same conclusions? There are three related problems here:

  1. We’re assuming humans are good at honestly testing their own personalities, they answer the test questions with the greatest level of self-awareness possible.
    1. (Chicken-and-egg problem, the Humm model is to help build self-awareness, but you need self-awareness to accurately tease your type out through the test).
  2. We’re assuming that the test itself is good at identifying the personality of the tester, even when answered honestly.

I think #1 is the biggest problem. This is why even though I believe there is value in personality profiling, I don’t believe it’s fair to test people specifically before hiring them for a role, or even necessarily once hired. Use the model yourself to try to understand people? Sure. Make them take a test that may not accurately represent them? No, because doing so gives them performance pressure.

Actually I think the best compromise is simply to explain to people what the model is, and ask them where they think they fit. After thinking about that for a while you might get a better answer by self-allocation into the categories than perhaps by taking the test (again this relies on good self-awareness, the same problem facing doing the test itself).

With those sections as an introduction to some of the theoretical challenges facing the framework, let’s dive in to the framework itself.

2.0 The 7 Components

The Humm handbook presents a model of 7 personality components. The angle of analysis is via Dominant Desire or Motivation. Imagine human personality is a black box, and we’re shining a light on it from the angle of desire.

Stereotype Dominant Desire
Normal Order
Mover To Communicate
Doublechecker Security
Artist Creativity
Politician Winning
Engineer Completion of projects
Hustler Material Success

2.1 Criticism: Component Caricatures

Probably one of the first areas where I felt the book lost a bit of credibility (*perhaps unnecessarily) was in the personality caricatures being unnecessarily exaggerated or having an unnecessary amount of specific examples for each component. To be fair, this fact is sort of qualified in the introduction of the book:

“Now, if a person had only one excessive, dominant desire their personality would deteriorate into a caricature. Such people, it must be stressed, do not exist in real life.”

Even so, as I was reading the caricatures for each component type, I found myself experiencing some combination of skepticism and good-natured desire to tease. Let me explain:

As an example, in many of the components, a small anecdote was given in regards to how this component would behave, E.G with regards to a meeting time. Movers will come late to a meeting and apologise. Politicians will come late to the meeting and not apologise. Normals will be on time for meetings. But then it went on, Doublecheckers drive Volvos or Toyotas, Artists drive Citroëns or Saabs, Hustlers like wearing gold and red, Doublecheckers women like wearing beige, etc.

Eventually at one point I wanted to ask the book: “So what flavour ice cream does a politician like eating? Do hustlers like Tofu or Pad Thai? If I go to the beach on Saturday instead of the movies, does that mean I’m an Engineer or Politician?”

You get my point. The broad categories or components actually made sense to me, but what seemed to water-down their value was the unnecessary focus on specific little details attributed to each category. I felt this eroded the credibility of the categories, perhaps unnecessarily. The problem comes when an artist doesn’t hold his hand over his mouth or have a beard, or an engineer says “I hear you” instead of “I feel you”! Those details can both be distracting to the model and perhaps inaccurate too, they press the model too hard into concrete reality, and I think it breaks somewhat as a result.

Critique #2: Too many concrete examples of preferences are given for each component, more high-level abstract descriptions could be enough. 

2.2 Criticism: Component Focus; Negative & Positive

A component being absent is about as significant as it being present. That means, knowing someone is a low Doublechecker tells you just as much useful information as knowing they are a high Doublechecker. Thus the Doublechecker trait is a continuum, low to high.

The problem with the model is it seems to focus more so on dominant traits and less so on weaker traits. But again, knowing someone is weak in a trait is also very useful information. Indeed, perhaps even worthy of giving it a name.

For example, a low Politician might be called a “Follower”. A low Normal might be called “Developing”, etc.

On the website 16Pesonalities, which presents a variation of the Myers-Briggs model, this balance is understood. A high extrovert leaning implies a low introvert leaning. A strong intuitive leaning implies a weaker observant leaning. These are presented as traits on a scale, and names are given such that there’s not “high” or “low” but one or the other.

This is clearly the case in the Humm model. Components can be strong and weak, so they are on a continuum, but that’s not focused on.

Critique #3: Negative traits could have names too, like low Politician is Follower, etc. 

This leads to my suggestions below in section 2.3.

2.3 Component combinations; room for improvement

It’s expressed clearly in the book that everyone is some combination of components. A section starting on page 107 begins to combine components into more viable “real-life” personality types.

I have two suggestions for improvement in this area:

Critique #4: Combinations could be better named… 

It’s clear that the combinations themselves are actually the “personalities” we’d find in real life. But they’re only named as as a combination of traits, E.G “Hustler-Politician” (HP) could be given a unique name to represent this combination. Furthermore, it’s implied that a “Hustler-Politican” has “low” in all other traits. This also says a lot and could be explored further.

Critique #5: The set of trait combinations is way larger than the book presents… 

On top of #4, if you really push the model further theoretically, it becomes clear that a large number of component combinations exist in the real world. For example, 17 combinations are presented in the book, where actually 2^6=64 combinations really exist (if you consider normal a “wrapper”). For example, the book does not present any commentary for the following theoretical double combination:

  1. Doublechecker-Mover

And many possible triple combinations are not presented, E.G:

  1. Politician-Engineer-Artist
  2. Politician-Engineer-Doublechecker
  3. Politician-Engineer-Hustler
  4. Politician-Engineer-Mover

(the list goes on).

The combinations are actually where the rubber meets the road in the model. If I were writing the book, I’d dial down the coverage of the traits (including the specific details as outlined in 2.1), and dial up the coverage of the combinations. That’s actually quite tough to do also, as combinations are complex (like real human personalities), and it would result in a total of 64 combinations, 128 if you count normal separately. But those combinations are where the model takes on real life and addresses more of the subtleties of real personalities.

Humm-Wadsworth: Interaction with other models

Finally, for those of us who are interested in the other personality profiling models, an interesting question is how they correspond with the Humm model presented in this book. I am familiar with the Big 5, and Myers-Briggs (MBTI), and DISC. Certainly others exist.

In Golis’ website page 22 of this document, he states “The five most common 7MTF components roughly correspond with the Five Factors”

 

OCEAN Factor (Big 5) Characteristics 7MTF Component (HUMM)
Openness to creativity Appreciation for art, are emotionally sensitive and curious, and seek adventure, unusual ideas, and variety of experience. Artist
Conscientiousness Self-disciplined, act dutifully, and demonstrate planned rather than spontaneous
behaviour.
Engineer
Extroversion Outgoing, positive and energetic and seek
stimulation in the company of others
Socialiser (Mover)
Agreeableness Friendly, compassionate, and cooperative rather towards others Doublechecker
Neuroticism Lack self-control and tend to easily experience unpleasant emotions such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability Low Regulator (Low Normal)

This is interesting because it opens the question of “What about the other two?” (Politician and Hustler). Surely those are somewhat related to extroversion. Again, the overlap is not complete or perfectly clear.

A good explanation could be an analogy. Perhaps human personality is like a black box. Each time we model it, we are shining a light into the box and seeing what there is to be seen. A different model is like shining the light in from a different angle, different properties come to the surface view.

Hence, for example, The “Humm light” has described itself as focused on human motivation, perhaps at a high level when motivation is considered, those 7 traits emerge from the interrogation. While the “Big 5 light” is based on the Lexical Hypothesis and Factor Analysis, in essence, it’s like asking “so what do people say about personality broadly?” When the question is looked at from that angle, those 5 traits emerge.

There appears to also be somewhat of a relationship between the Big 5 and MBTI. The website 16Personalities presents a variation of MBTI that includes another addition to the classical 4 letters called Identity, which corresponds with Normal in Humm, and Neuroticism in Big 5. The table putting these three together then would look something like this (named by Big 5 terminology, other terminology is on the side):

Big 5: Extraversion Positive Negative
Name for Component in model
Big 5 Extraversion Introversion Extraversion
MBTI Extraversion Introversion Mind
Humm High Mover Low Mover Mover (Politician?/Hustler?)
Big 5: Openness Positive Negative
Name for Component in model
Big 5 High Openness to experience Low Openness to experience Openness
MBTI Intuitive Observant Energy
Humm High Artist Low Artist Artist
Big 5: Agreeableness Positive Negative
Name for Component in model
Big 5 High Agreeableness Low Agreeableness Agreeableness
MBTI Feeling Thinking Nature
Humm High Doublechecker Low Doublechecker Doublechecker
Big 5: Conscientiousness Positive Negative
Name for Component in model
Big 5 High Conscientiousness Low Conscientiousness Conscientiousness
MBTI Judging Prospecting Tactics
Humm High Engineer Low Engineer Engineer
Big 5: Neuroticism Positive Negative
Name for Component in model
Big 5 High Neuroticism Low Neuroticism Neuroticism
MBTI Turbulent Assertive Identity
Humm Low Normal High Normal Normal

These properties do not have perfect overlap. The lines can be a bit blurry. Also, knowing the meaning of the Big 5 and MBTI dimensions, I think the overlap with Humm is definitely not clean / clear, but this is the core idea.

Conclusion

As stated upfront, the effort to understand people and how they work, when paired with the correct motivations, is a good thing to do. Perhaps personality is like the “black box”, and each model is an attempt to shine the light inside. We all know human nature is complex and subtle, and often defies simple description.

I think the Humm model is a good effort. I have made several suggestions / critiques in this article of where I think the presentation of the Humm model in this book could be improved. One that I’d like to see is a more rigorous / verbose explanation of how it can claim to be scientifically valid, this is not about citing the credentials of who invented it, but about speaking about the methodology behind the invention. How could the model itself be better validated? What kinds of information / data could disprove the model? Could we describe the trait combinations in a more comprehensive way? These are all relevant questions.

Well, those are the thoughts of this random Engineer-Politician!

Shawn 07-10-2018

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