HBDI: evidence based and evidence based makes two

Last week I did a presentation on myths about GenY and when I checked the rest of the program, something catched my eye: there was also a session on HBDI.

I didn’t know it all, but when I checked online, I discovered I found a new myth in education…

What is HBDI? HBDI stands for Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument. From Wikipedia we learn that it
is a system that claims to measure and describe thinking preferences in people. It was developed by William “Ned” Herrmann while leading management education at General Electric’s Crotonville facility.

In his brain dominance model, Herrmann identifies four different modes of thinking:

  1. Analytical thinking
    Key words : Auditive,logical, factual, critical, technical and quantitative.
    Preferred activities : collecting data, analysis, understanding how things work, judging ideas based on facts, criteria and logical reasoning.
  2. Sequential thinking
    Key words : safekeeping, structured, organized, complexity or detailed, planned.
    Preferred activities : following directions, detail oriented work, step-by-step problem solving, organization and implementation.
  3. Interpersonal thinking
    Key words : Kinesthetic, emotional, spiritual, sensory, feeling.
    Preferred activities : listening to and expressing ideas, looking for personal meaning, sensory input, and group interaction.
  4. Imaginative thinking
    Key words : Visual, holistic, intuitive, innovative, and conceptual.
    Preferred activities : Looking at the big picture, taking initiative, challenging assumptions, visuals, metaphoric thinking, creative problem solving, long term thinking.

OK… but if you read the article on HBDI.com about the theory behind HBDI, you discover that it is influenced by left-right brain thinking. Wait a minute? That is a neuromyth we already discussed.

But still: there are claims that this theory is evidence based, with over 60 doctoral theses. Victor Bunderson wrote an article to prove this really is a valid method. But… it isn’t. Actually, some smarter people than me have examined the claims and they found:

A lot of people and brands do seem to invest in this program, based on everything I read the past week: I wouldn’t. I’m still open to any peer-reviewed proof and an explanation going beyond 4 colors and brain hemispheres…

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