By some estimates, there are over 74,000 personal assessment instruments on the market today. Clearly, there’s a lot of interest in self-discovery. Misusing any tool can be dangerous, however. In my last post I mentioned three dangers: we may limit our own options because the results have spoken; we may think we know others by classifying them by some system of types or talents; and, we may hinder our willingness to learn new things not revealed in the test results.
Despite the drawbacks of assessment instruments, they have some significant corollary benefits:
Narrows your hunt. Yes, a danger of assessment instruments is that they may limit our options—if we let them. But they also can cast light on capabilities and interests that we may not have been aware of. There are infinite possibilities to invest your exploratory energy. Assessment instruments act as a subterranean map suggesting where you might mine for gold. None of us have the luxury of being stuck in time as Bill Murray’s character was in Groundhog Day to discover our gifts. Assessment tests can accelerate that learning process.
Engages community. Yes, we often take short-cuts by inappropriately classifying people into assessment categories. But assessment instruments also remind us that while we are unique, we are also similar to others. A taxonomy of categories helps us explore the gifts God has given us by giving us a language to discuss our gifting with others in community. I am convinced that none of us can accurately see our gifting without the presence of others to help us discover it. Assessment instruments facilitate that dialogue.
Emboldens experimentation. Yes, we may become overly reliant on a test result and not look beyond the printout to learn other traits we could develop. But assessment tests can also affirm an important skill or trait that we might not have thought much about. It can embolden us to experiment with activities we might not have otherwise considered. Knowing that others have successfully developed a trait that may be undeveloped in us can give us the courage we need to take some uncomfortable first steps toward our own mastery.
With all this assessment test goodness, which is the best among the 74,000 out there? Despite my general aversion to assessments, I’ve taken quite a few; some good, some not so good. But in each case, I run the results through the best assessment instrument there is: me. That’s because there’s really seven billion assessment instruments on this planet. And you’re one of them, the best there is for you.
But consider this. Like any assessment instrument, the “instrument of you” can be misused, experiencing the dangers we discussed: staying with what you know; judging people by their similarity to you; or, refusing to learn new things. Or, the “instrument of you” can be put to productive use by keeping open to new areas of focus, by purposely engaging with others, and by bold experimentation. Which would you rather bet your future on?
What are some of the insights you’ve gained from assessment instruments?