Observations on Assessments Pt. 8. Who Needs Experts

Once upon a time, after many years of trial and error, scientists found a way to accurately measure how human beings thought, learned, and behaved. These scientists were psychometricians, a very tiny and specialized branch (many would even say a twig) of psychology. This information was invaluable in understanding why people behaved a certain way in different circumstances. It could even predict how they would behave in a particular job. The catch was that only an expert could really understand the data from those assessments, and only an expert could relate the data to real-life business situations. This made for a complicated and expensive process, often costing hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

Then the age of computers began, bringing two extraordinary changes to the world of psychometrics. First, the calculating power of computers enabled the scientists to factor to analyze the data from assessments faster and in more depth than ever before. The data got better and better.

The second feature of the changes has not been promoted very much. Newt Gingrich once observed that the greatest impact of technology was to disintermediate the experts. His example was a machine on a factory floor that automatically diagnosed carpal tunnel syndrome for the workers without the need for a doctor or nurse. In the world of assessments, this meant that the marvelous information on job behavior was readily available and easily understood by anyone. Many companies are not happy about that. Their revenue depends upon consulting fees. Other companies stick with old-style profiling systems which tend to reduce the data to simplistic percentages. That was an early way of eliminating experts.

Today, job candidates can complete an assessment in 25 minutes, and the company immediately has access to a world of information about job performance, management needs, training options, career development, and much more. No experts are needed for even the deepest levels of business applications. Instead of hundreds of dollars, the cost is often measured in cents.

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