What is DiSC?
DISC is the four quadrant behavioral model based on the work of William Moulton Marston Ph.D. (1893 - 1947) to examine the behavior of individuals in their environment or within a specific situation. DISC looks at behavioral styles and behavioral preferences.
Marston completed doctoral studies at Harvard in the newly developing field of Psychology. In the early 1920's Marston's work when he first studied the concepts of will and power and their effect on personality and human behavior. These findings contributed greatly to the field of psychology.
Marston published Emotions of Normal People in 1928. In this book he first formally presented his findings, though he had written about DISC four years earlier. Marston published a second book on DISC, Integrative Psychology, in 1931. Marston really wanted to develop a unit of measurement of 'mental energy'. He did not develop the DISC test or assessment. In fact, he never used it as an assessment at all. However, in 1930, a friend did use it as an assessment in a book on success and it was published as one of the first in the newly emerging field of Self-Help publications.
One of the most powerful aspects of the DiSC® circle is that it allows us to show the relationship between two people in a straightforward, visual manner. For example, on the circular DiSC map to the left we can plot a participant (represented by the dot) and her co-worker (represented by the star). The participant can immediately see the similarities and differences between the two of them.The tests classify four aspects of personality by testing a person's preferences in word associations (compare with Myers-Briggs Type Indicator). DISC is an acronym for:
- Dominance - relating to control, power and assertiveness
- Influence - relating to social situations and communication
- Steadiness - relating to patience, persistence, and thoughtfulness
- Compliance (or conscientiousness or caution) - relating to structure and organization
These four dimensions can be grouped in a grid with D and I sharing the top row and representing extroverted aspects of the personality, and C and S below representing introverted aspects. D and C then share the left column and represent task-focused aspects, and I and S share the right column and represent social aspects.
- Dominance: People who score high in the intensity of the 'D' styles factor are very active in dealing with problems and challenges, while low D scores are people who want to do more research before committing to a decision. High "D" people are described as demanding, forceful, egocentric, strong willed, driving, determined, ambitious, aggressive, and pioneering. Low D scores describe those who are conservative, low keyed, cooperative, calculating, undemanding, cautious, mild, agreeable, modest and peaceful.
- Influence: People with High I scores influence others through talking and activity and tend to be emotional. They are described as convincing, magnetic, political, enthusiastic, persuasive, warm, demonstrative, trusting, and optimistic. Those with Low I scores influence more by data and facts, and not with feelings. They are described as reflective, factual, calculating, skeptical, logical, suspicious, matter of fact, pessimistic, and critical.
- Steadiness: (Submission in Marston's time): People with High S styles scores want a steady pace, security, and don't like sudden change. Low S intensity scores are those who like change and variety. High S persons are calm, relaxed, patient, possessive, predictable, deliberate, stable, consistent, and tend to be unemotional and poker faced. People with Low S scores are described as restless, demonstrative, impatient, eager, or even impulsive.
- Conscientious: (Compliance in Marston's time): Persons with High C styles adhere to rules, regulations, and structure. They like to do quality work and do it right the first time. High C people are careful, cautious, exacting, neat, systematic, diplomatic, accurate, tactful. Those with Low C scores challenge the rules and want independence and are described as self-willed, stubborn, opinionated, unsystematic, arbitrary, and careless with details.
A common general public misconception is that if one is described as having either a D, I, S, or C style that all people are simply categorized into one of four types. The 1970's work by Dr John Geier brought DISC into practical application with substantive research. The Geier research delineated the distinct differences of person's within the 4 factor styles with the advent of the Classical Pattern definitions. It was found that there are distinct differences between persons within each of the 4 style profiles. For example not all D's behave in the same way. The same is accurate for the other styles of behavior.
The traditional way to represent the DiSC model is a line-graph format, as shown to the right. This format is used in Inscape Publishing products such as the DiSC Classic profile and provides separate scores on four scales: D, i, S, and C. The interpretation of this graph within the profile is based on a Classical Pattern, which describes a person's overall DiSC pattern as it's influenced by all four styles.
In the DiSC Classic assessment, participants are shown 28 forced-choice boxes that contain four words each. Consequently, participants review a total of 112 words. In each box, they are asked to choose one that is most like them and one that is least like them. One of the original reasons for using this measurement methodology is because it greatly reduces the social desirability of responses. That is, a participant can only choose one response as "most" even if they are all desirable and has to choose one as "least" even if it's not very desirable.
The Circle, or Cirmcumplex, Representation of DiSC
The earliest representation of the DiSC model, as described by William Marston in his book, The Emotions of Normal People, was a circle. Hearkening back to the roots of DiSC, the DiSC circle, to the left, provides an intuitive way to show a participant her or his location within the DiSC model. This representation of DiSC is used within the Everything DiSC profiles. Some advantages of this representation are:
- It makes the DiSC model more intuitive and memorable.
- It provides more precision about a participant's true DiSC style.
- It opens up new possibilities for DiSC practitioners.
- Participants generally find it easier to respond to the Everything DiSC assessment.
- It usually takes less time.
- It allows us to show the relationship between two people in a straightforward, visual manner.
- For groups, it allows participants to quickly gauge the composition of their group and see the implications of that composition.
Hearkening back to the roots of DiSC, the DiSC circle, to the left, provides an intuitive way to show a participant her or his location within the DiSC® model. This representation of DiSC is used within the Everything DiSC® profiles; Everything DiSC® Work of Leaders, Everything DiSC® Workplace, Everything DiSC® Management, Everything DiSC® Sales, Everything DiSC® 363™ for Leaders. For instance, the circle, or circumplex, to the left shows a participant who tends toward the i or Influence style but also has a strong tendency toward the D or Dominance style.
In the Everything DiSC® assessment, participants are shown 79 adjectives and asked to indicate, on a five point scale, how frequently each adjective describes them. This format is illustrated to the right.
Because the Everything DiSC assessment is electronically scored, the computerized scoring algorithm can automatically adjust for the social desirability of responses. Consequently, participants are left with more freedom to answer the questions in a way that truly describes them. That is, they are not forced to select a response that does not feel optimal to them. For this reason, participants generally find it easier to respond to the Everything DiSC assessment than to the DiSC Classic assessment. In addition, because they are reviewing only 79 words, rather than 112 words, the assessment usually takes less time.
After a participant has finished the assessment, the profile is scored. Each of the 79 adjectives is assigned to one of eight DiSC scales: D, Di, i, iS, S, SC, C, or CD. Although not reported in the actual profile, participants receive scores on each of these eight scales. Each of these eight scales is weighted according to its location on the DiSC circle, and a participant's location in the DiSC circle is calculated. Because the Everything DiSC assessment measures people on eight points around the DiSC circle rather than on four points, like the DiSC Classic assessment, it provides more precision about a participant's true DiSC style. For instance, instead of simply measuring a person on the S and C scales, the Everything DiSC assessment measures a person on S, SC, and C scales. This precision gives us a better idea of where a person is located within the DiSC circle.
One of the most powerful aspects of the DiSC® circle is that it allows us to show the relationship between two people in a straightforward, visual manner. For example, on the circular DiSC map to the left we can plot a participant (represented by the dot) and her co-worker (represented by the star). The participant can immediately see the similarities and differences between the two of them.
The circular representation of DiSC also allows participants to quickly gauge the composition of their group andsee the implications of that composition. For instance, in the team represented to the right, a disproportionately large number of group members tend toward C. Consequently, this group is probably fairly task-oriented and may put a very high priority on getting things right. We can also see some potential group limitations. Because virtually everyone in the group is cautious and reflective, the team may find that they often lack a sense of urgency or energy in their culture. They may lose out on opportunities because they don't move at a quick enough pace.
Although the line-graph representation of DiSC used in DiSC Classic is still a very powerful tool, the circular representation of DiSC opens up new possibilities for DiSC practitioners. This representation allows participants to quickly understand relationships in the DiSC model and recognize patterns within group dynamics. The Everything DiSC assessment also helps people quickly internalize the ways that they might need to stretch in their daily lives and the stress that this causes. And perhaps most important, the circular representation makes the DiSC model more intuitive and memorable while building on its inherent richness.