By Dr Andrea Polzer-Debruyne, (PhD Organisational Psychology) Certified TetraMap Facilitator .
TetraMap has become an integral part of my facilitation toolkit because I have seen its principles work – not only during the workshops but also in ‘real life’. Being able to use a metaphor-based tool that has intuitive appeal and avoids people feeling placed into ‘pigeon holes’ enriches not only my professional practice – it also helps my clients and their teams take constructive steps towards their goals.
One of the key differences is the level at which the two assessments and their interpretations try to make sense of people’s behaviours. Psychometric personality profiles look at the person rather closely on an individual level (hence often called ‘individual differences’). TetraMap takes a step back and looks less at individual differences, it looks more at commonalities between people’s preferences and attempts to group them.
Another key difference is the theoretical underpinnings of the assessment tools. Psychometric personality assessments are rooted in the psychological theory of personalities. In recent years that theoretical framework typically is a variation of the five-factor model of personality traits (‘Big 5 model’). The development of the assessment tools and its result interpretation attempts to capture as many aspects of those five personality traits as possible.
TetraMap’s use of the four Elements as metaphors is not rooted in any psychological theory of personalities. The description of the Elements’ characteristics is not intended to ‘proof’ personality traits. They are intended to create an easy-to-understand set of descriptions for personality types.
Personality trait refers to enduring personal characteristics that are revealed in a particular pattern of behaviour in a variety of situations. Personality type is a collection of personality traits which are thought to occur together as determined by a certain pattern of responses.
A third key difference is the usability of the assessment information. In order to be able, and authorised, to interpret psychometric reports and to give feedback about their meaning, one needs to have undergone strict training, be qualified and accredited to do so. The information included in the reports is typically complex and for the untrained person not easy to understand or interpret. Most psychometric profiles are used for selection, career development and/or succession planning in an attempt to predict as much of the person’s future behaviour as possible.
TetraMap’s Elemental preference profiles can be interpreted by the layperson (although training and accreditation are highly recommended). The profiles are easy to understand, and information gained from them can be applied immediately and ongoing in a variety of situations – team building, communication, structuring meetings, facilitating discussions…
Through the use of the four Elements as metaphors for the four broad personality types, TetraMap’s Elemental profile is intuitive and easy to understand. It is a very effective starter concept for conversations/workshops around understanding, respecting and cooperating with others.
The concept of the Element metaphor can easily and effectively be linked to other theoretical frameworks and many organisational (and personal) settings. The metaphors’ labels are universally acceptable and value-free, making the tool exceptionally suited to be used in different contexts and cultures.