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The difference between the Kolbe Index and CliftonStrengths

February 13, 2020

  • Kolbe Wisdom

There are a variety of psychometric assessments on the market, and we often get asked about the differences between Kolbe and CliftonStrengths (formerly StrengthsFinder.)  In a nutshell, the Kolbe A™ Index and the CliftonStrengths measure different things.
The scientific community agrees that there are three parts of the mind. People are generally familiar with two of them, the affective and the cognitive, but the third, conation, is a mystery to them.
Affect is all about what you like, dislike or want to do, while the cognitive is about how smart you are, your knowledge and skills. Both of these change over time. Conation refers to the part of the mind that is predictable, unchanging and describes your natural way of doing things, making decisions and solving problems. It isn’t affected by your preferences, rather, it is spurred into action by them.

Assessments in the Three Parts of the Mind

  • Cognitive assessments like the SAT or Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test evaluate your ability to reason and what you’ve learned; i.e. your knowledge and skills – identifying what you know.
  • Affective assessments like MyersBriggs Type Indicator ®, DISC®  or CliftonStrengths evaluate your personality, your preferences – identifying how you feel, what you desire and what interests you.
  • Conative: The Kolbe Indexes are the only assessments that assess conation, evaluating the instinctive talents you were born with – identifying the way you take action.

What is the Kolbe A™ Index?

This conative assessment takes less than 20 minutes and provides a result called your MO (method of operation). It identifies people’s instinctive talents or strengths, explains them, analyzes how they align with tasks and other people, and offers practical solutions for putting them into practice — from doing better in your work, reducing stress or improving personal interactions. It measures a person’s instinctive contributions and needs in four categories (or Action Modes®):

  • Fact Finder – one’s way of gathering and sharing information
  • Follow Thru – one’s way of organizing
  • Quick Start – one’s way of dealing with risk and uncertainty
  • Implementor – one’s way of handling space and tangibles

One of the many things that differentiates the Kolbe Index from other assessments is its validity and reliability. Research has been done with studies spanning decades, and the results show that it is more than 90% reliable over a span of 20 years. The results are stable and behavior is predictable. Remember, cognitive and affective traits change over time, so cognitive and affective assessments will also yield different results most of the time when taken a few years apart.
Kolbe Indexes are useful in every aspect of life and business, for example:

Read More about the history of Kolbe Corp

So, what is CliftonStrengths (StrengthFinder) and what does it measure?

Although the CliftonStrengths philosophy defines talents as the basis of strengths, they interpret talents as “your naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior,” the CliftonStrengths assessment primarily measures preferences for behavior, thus measuring talent in the feeling or affective domain. Gallup’s premiere book on StrengthsFinder describes it this way, “StrengthsFinder is a web-based assessment of normal personality from the perspective of positive psychology…It captures personal motivation, interpersonal skills, self-presentation and learning style.”
It takes 35-45 minutes and gives you the option of two reports – one with your top five strengths or a longer version which includes all 34 CliftonStrengths sorted into four categories called Leadership Domains:

  • Strategic Thinking: Analytical, Context, Futuristic, Ideation, Input, Intellection, Learner, Strategic
  • Executing: Achiever, Arranger, Belief, Consistency, Deliberative, Discipline, Focus, Responsibility, Restorative
  • Influencing: Activator, Command, Communication, Competition, Maximizer, Self-Assurance, Significance, Woo
  • Relationship Building: Adaptability, Connectedness, Developer, Empathy, Harmony, Includer, Individualization, Positivity, Relator

CliftonStrengths is more likely to change in a significant way over time, even with as little as six months between assessments. Although aspects of personality and preferences stabilize in adults, many factors can affect the affective domain. For example, you may see your Talent Theme of Achiever move from a top position to a lesser one after having children, while the Developer theme moves up. Just because CliftonStrengths results may change over time doesn’t necessarily make them unreliable, or unimportant, it just requires an understanding that a person’s habits, likes, dislikes and motivations will change and should be revisited periodically and carefully used in critical decision-making based on results.
CliftonStrengths results are useful for:

  • Personal Development and Productivity
  • Business Applications (Not for Hiring)
  • Employee Engagement
  • Understanding Colleagues

Are there any similarities between CliftonStrengths and Kolbe?

Where Kolbe and CliftonStrengths overlap is the use of the word “talent.” Kolbe uses the word in the commonly understood way as “a special natural ability or aptitude.” Gallup suggests a more comprehensive definition of “any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior.” This contributes to the purity of the Kolbe conative identification while Gallup would include cognitive and affective domains and uses “behavior” to mean the result of motivation, preference, knowledge and learned behavior.

Okay…so, should I use Kolbe or CliftonStrengths?

Kolbe is often used as a stand-alone suite of assessments, as adults often have a clear sense of their intelligence, skills,experience and personality already. Although conative strengths have been with you your entire life, the Kolbe A result is often the first time people have been given a way to describe these striving instincts and compare your strengths to others.
So, if you’re looking for a single assessment type, Kolbe is the most reliable and has more applications and prescriptive advice. That said, Kolbe can also be  used with CliftonStrengths (or other personality assessments). We encourage the use of additional assessments because it is important to understand yourself and others in all three parts of the mind. Some of our top clients use Kolbe and CliftonStrengths together on a regular basis.
Questions about what assessment is right for you or your organization?

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