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The Tricky Trap of Concept-Words



There are certain words that describe a positive characteristic and suggest the potential for meaningful actions. It does not matter if these words are in English, French, Arabic, or other languages. They seem to be a fundamentally good thing that would improve job performance and enhance a business in marvelous ways. They might drive results, trigger prosperity and bring harmony to everyone. There is truth in this and that is the trap. The word becomes a beacon that promises so much. So what is the problem? The catch is that the word is a description of a state, and that state must be achieved through specific actions. Too often, the word becomes a rallying cry and as people enthusiastically endorse the promised state, their apparent support bypasses the critical and more difficult actions necessary to actually realize it in the real world.


The words’ ethereal nature gives them amazing versatility. It is not only a beguiling goal forever out of reach but its absence serves as an explanation for countless disappointing failures of projects or initiatives. The very nature of such words is its greatest attraction because it seems so promising.


In business, a variety of concept-words are used to describe the issues... motivation, commitment, grit, culture, attitude, dedication, etc. In fact, motivation is not what is wanted. There is a specific job behavior that is wanted. It is not dedication...it may be showing up to work on time. It may be following the process and policies of the business. It is not grit that is wanted but resilience or making more cold calls. It is not culture. There is a set of behaviors that are desired. Culture is simply the term that is used to describe those behaviors. The problem is that culture, like the other concept-words, is determined by the hard-wired personality traits and cognitive abilities of the people involved. Without knowing those, it is impossible to achieve these concepts.


Behavioral data unbundles the issues into understandable and more importantly, actionable parts. Surveys and workshops that are based on the concept-words throw everyone into the same box. It works for those with the right behavioral strengths. It partially works for those with some of the right behavioral strengths along with some challenging ones. It does not work at all for those lacking the right behavioral strengths. Perpetuating the problem, that group is described as not committed, not motivated, etc.


Before the discovery of bacteria, the battle against diseases involved leeches, bloodletting, avoiding bathing, and a host of similarly misdirected efforts. The discovery that there were specific causes underlying diseases inspired a world of more effective solutions as scientists and physicians learned more and more. Similarly, the realization that hard-wired behavioral traits and cognitive abilities underlie all human interactions is awakening a world of incredibly simple and actionable solutions to countless performance problems within businesses. It has revealed common glitches and miscues in communication that are easily corrected once the causes are seen. The power of behavioral DATA unlocks the potential of all people in all kinds of jobs and situations. Behavioral DATA will transform the business world and put real tools into the hands of talent managers.



About the author: Chuck Russell is a thought leader on applying behavioral data to business, educational, and social challenges. For over 35 years, he has worked with companies of all kinds to optimize their talent acquisition and talent management practices with behavioral data. He has used that experience to design hundreds of applications enabling anyone to use information that previously required expert interpretation or specialized training. He is an international speaker on behavioral data analytics. His most recent book is No Bad Hires, Bad Hires Are Now Optional.

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