Symbol Test

by Flemming Funch, 22 Jan 95.

This is a simple test that quickly will tell you something about a person. It can be quite useful in determining where someone will fit into an organization and how he will relate to others and to the tasks at hand.

Have the person look briefly at these 5 figures and ask him to choose the one he likes best and the one he likes the second best. Don't allow any intellectualization about it, we just need a quick and simple choice. Then afterwards we can analyze what that means.

A Square is somebody who feels most comfortable with a stable environment and clear directions on what to do. He is conservative and likes things that are regular and orderly. If given a task, he will work on it until it is finished, even if it is repetitious, cumbersome and lonely.

A Rectangle also likes structure and regularity. But he will mostly seek to establish it with organization, meetings, committees and so forth. This will have to be done the proper way, taking all rules and regulations into consideration. If given a task he will start organizing it to be sure it can be done in the most systematic way.

A Triangle is goal oriented. He enjoys planning something out and then doing it. He gets motivated by the accomplishment. He will tend to look at big long-term issues, but might forget the details. When given a task he will set a goal and work on a plan for it.

A Circle is social and communicative. No hard edges. He handles things by talking about them and smoothing things out with everybody. Communication is the first priority, and making sure there is harmony. When given a task, he will talk about it.

A Squiggle is off-the-wall and creative. He feels best doing new and different things most of the time and gets bored with regularity. When given a task, he will come up with bright ideas about it.

The Square, Rectangle and Triangle are all convergent. They are working TOWARDS something specific and finite, and they do it in a logical and systematic way. But they might be lacking in personal creativity.

The Circle and Squiggle are divergent. They are creative, extroverted, and intuitive. They will reach out around them into new areas and to other people. But they aren't particularly systematic or dependable.

This kind of categorization is very useful for evaluating people for job positions, for example, or for finding out how well people will work together. If you really need something specific done, the Square is the most likely to do it exactly as specified. Squares will work great in the accounting department. If things need to be organized amongst a group of people, then the Rectangle is most likely to make that happen. A Triangle might be a good executive, setting goals and making sure they are met. For any kind of personal relations the Circle will be good. A Circle will be a good personnel person or a receptionist or customer service. If anything new is needed, a Squiggle is the person for the job. Advertising, problem solving etc.

The different categories of people might often get in conflicts with each other if they don't realize that they each work differently. The convergent people might be really frustrated that the divergent ones don't seem to be able to get done what they are "supposed" to, but will do all kinds of other things and not care about deadlines. The divergent people might find the convergent ones cold and narrow minded, not taking human factors and new possibilities into consideration.

Now, if you need to convey an idea to somebody or get somebody to do a specific task, these categorizations are also useful. It can tell us a person's preferred method of working with something.

A Square will need fairly specific explanations, examples and instructions. He will not be happy just floating around, not knowing where this is going. A Square will feel good about being presented with a procedure and carrying it through until it is done. It doesn't matter much if it is repetitious, regularity is a source of comfort. For a Square it is a good idea to have more of a formal routine, certain rituals that are repeated.

A Rectangle needs to see how things are organized. A systematic overview of the subject or task at hand would be a good idea. And the Rectangle will probably also enjoy understanding the principles of what is going on, rather than just being told what to do. He will feel comfortable knowing and noticing a system in action, knowing the names of things, having everything well defined, and so forth.

A Triangle needs to see a goal and needs to see some accomplishments. He will be most interested in the big picture and in the end result. He will always need to know WHY. If it is a task we need to do, he might appreciate specific targets and milestones, and he will take great pleasure in checking off each one that gets done. It should always be clear what the underlying intention is with what we do. If the general direction is agreed upon, the Triangle can be quite flexible in how we get there.

A Circle doesn't need a plan or a system and might be turned off by such matters. He needs to talk about whatever is at hand. Getting to an overall harmonious situation is more important than getting specific procedures or targets done right. A Circle will not just sit and listen to your version, he would want to add his part and see the matter from different angles so that he can get a sense of the whole thing. To deal with a circle one has to be flexible and willing to discuss any aspect of the matter.

A Squiggle must be presented with new and different things. Unexpected angles is what will motivate him. He is not particularly interested in staying with the subject, but will contrast it with drastically different ideas. He likes to explore many possibilities at the same time, and there must always be multiple choices available. If something needs to be done, it is perfectly fine if no kind of procedure or structure is recognized and every day is different. To deal well with a squiggle, be flexible enough to jump around quite a bit and avoid preconceived ideas about where we will end up.

People are different. If you aren't able to adjust to different personality types, you will probably mainly attract the ones that are similar to yourself, and others just won't appreciate what you do or say. If you do recognize the different types of people and if you approximate their way of relating to reality, then there is no limit to who you can deal with successfully.

If it isn't apparent already, there is no value judgment connected with which category people fall in. None of them are better than the other ones. Each one is a somewhat fragmented package. It has qualities that are good for certain purposes and it has qualities that aren't so good for other purposes.

The best way of testing these is probably to ask the person to pick the figure he likes the most and then the figure he likes the second most. That gives a more composite picture. Then the qualities might blend or balance each other somewhat.

I picked this up in a seminar on "Delegating Work" years ago, but I don't know its actual origin.

Try running this test on a few people you know. Notice how the results fit with what you know about them.

- Flemming