Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Lessons of Simulation Systems

So far I have four parts of this project detailing the requirements for jobs. I've noticed some patterns about what traits are more valuable than others. I will re-describe the traits here rather than redirect you to the first post. The traits come from three sources. One is Dungeons and Dragons, as a way of simulating a person very different from the player who controls him or her. (D&D games would be kind of dull if you had to play as yourself.)

The second is the Meyers-Briggs personality test, that notes four dichotomies in human behavior and classifies people by their preferred positions on this. In an MB test, all people have all eight traits, but express four of them more and in preference to the other four.

D&D Traits, by value:

* Charisma
The term Charisma comes from the ancient Greek idea that people with a lot of this traits were specifically blessed by the gods, and the term is Greek for "divine gift." People with lots of Charisma are charming, influential, witty, and make friends easily. Although it is a function purely of personality and mind, visual media often make use of a standard of depicting high-charisma people are more attractive to demonstrate its influence. (Strange-looking people may actually be charismatic in real life. Case in point, Adolf Hitler moved enormous crowds despite being not only bizarre looking, but a complete weirdo to boot. Plus questionably sane.)

Charisma is valued because of the way that it allows one to influence people. A primary need of companies is to influence people into giving money to the company. (By, say, buying something.) Failing that, Charisma is also useful for convincing other people that your ideas are right and should be followed. Even technicians must convince their boss that they are in fact working as best they know how and that the project they are working on is indeed a good idea.

Failing THAT too, few projects are the result of one person. Employees are expected to be "Team Players," and operate with other people without fighting or arguing. Even if the other person is wrong, obnoxious, stupid, or insufferable. Don't be insufferable, or firing you will seem like an excellent idea.

* Wisdom
Wisdom is poorly defined in D&D, but it seems to consist mostly of being observant, detail-oriented, and prudent. Having poor wisdom makes a person oblivious and impulsive. Both obliviousness and impulsiveness are bad traits in the working world, as they create additional work for at least your boss, and quite possibly more work for yourself too. Companies prefer self-directed employees that do necessary tasks without being repeatedly reminded.
Most tasks also benefit from observing the details as they fill out, to note for small problems before they become big ones. Also, like Charisma, Wisdom is purely mental. One cannot assess this trait merely at a glance.

* Intelligence
Intelligence measures a person's ability to reason and learn. Very important for white collar positions, or where training is important. Beyond a certain level, it ceases to provide benefits to something like 75% of all positions. Again, this doesn't mean that one can ignore this trait, as an ignoramus is not an attractive candidate for anything.
Most people would imagine that this trait would be very important, but that is not the case.

* Constitution
Constitution is a measure of a person's general healthiness. Medical insurance is getting expensive, and all else being equal, a person with a better constitution is preferable because they will make fewer claims and cost less. Also, they can safely work more hours, which doesn't go unnoticed.

* Dexterity
Dexterity is about being able to move both quickly and accurately. One measurement in D&D, but at least five or six different ones for real life. Most people would be fine with a moderate score in this. (But not too low. Clumsiness equals injury, equals insurance claim, equals lost money for them.) Some jobs do require higher levels, mostly those requiring precision work. Moderate dexterity should be sufficient for 75% of available jobs.

* Strength
Strength, the having of muscles and ability to use them forcefully, is actually the least useful trait for modern work. The need for muscle is mostly replaced by machines. Some athletes need it, and anyone who must physically overpower someone needs it, and anyone who needs to haul things needs it. But most modern work could be done by somebody weak as a kitten.

And now for MB traits. Again, from most valuable to least valuable for getting a job. Both Meyers and Briggs would tell me that I'm doing it wrong, that all people actually have all eight traits but that the test measures preference, and that all types are equal, but I have noticed a trend to prefer certain traits over others. Still, as a nod to Mr. Meyers and Ms. Briggs, I will note what would happen if a company was devoid of one particular trait.

* Extroversion
An extroverted person loves to talk to people and meet them and discuss things. They feel sad and unimportant if they have no one to talk to. The highest paying position require this trait. It is countered by Introversion. A company that lacked this trait entirely would be a dysfunctional group that navel-stared excessively. Marketing could not function, leading to a quick financial death.

* Sensing
Sensing people prefer to look at the little details instead of the big picture. This helps them maintain accuracy, and avoid error. Sensing people are called that because they tend to prefer to have direct tangible evidence for a proposition, instead of the indirect logic preferred by their counterpart, the Intuitive. A company that lacked this trait would be bogged down by series of small errors that quickly grew into massive problems because nobody noticed.

* Feeling
Feeling people are somewhat empathic, concerned with the feelings of other people and themselves. They tend towards artistic natures, and work hard to maintain group morale. The opposing trait is Thinking. A company lacking this trait would degenerate into perpetual office politics and trolling, and nothing useful could get done. Also, everyone would drive each other completely insane.

* Thinking
Thinking people prefer a detached style, logically considering every situation from the outside. Their style is quite useful for detecting maladaptive patterns. The opposing trait is Feeling. A company lacking this trait would waste all its time on touchy-feely exercises and never contribute useful work. (Although the workers would be remarkably sane.)

* Intuitive
The Intuitive like abstractions, the large picture, and eschew details. This helps them stay on track, as the little details would drive them mad from micromanagement. They are best convinced with an abstract and logical argument for a proposition, revolving around principles. The opposite trait is Sensing. A company lacking this trait would be unable to see a project through, as it obsessed on the small details to the detriment of the rest of the project.

* Judging
Judging types want to come to a snap decision, now. If it is the right decision, awesome. If it is the wrong decision, uh oh. A company of pure judgers would be massively impulsive, probably pathologically so. It is opposed by perceiving.

* Perceiving
Perceiving types want to delay decision making until all the information is available to them. This decision will therefore certainly be right. A company of pure perceivers would die of analysis paralysis. It is opposed by judging.

* Introversion
Introverted people want to reflect and do things by themselves. It may come last on this list, but a company starts to need introverts when it has more than 5 or so people. Pure extroverts would die of boredom doing the kind of things that introverts do. Accounting and research especially. A company lacking introverts would be easily out-competed.

For my readers: If you dislike your trait-measurements, how would you adjust them?

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