Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Strengths Finder 2.0

Strengths Finder 2.0 is a product developed by the Gallup Company. Best known for its polls, Gallup is a multi-faceted organization focused on producing, analyzing, and utilizing information--this book was printed by the Gallup Press, for example.

The late CEO of Gallup, Dr. Donald Clifton, was interested in the idea of strength development. The idea is that successful people are successful because they are utilizing their strengths and not working inefficiently in an area which they are weak in: Einstein would not be famous had he dedicated himself to football. Therefore, it would be beneficial for people to discover their own strength-areas and develop those.

Unfortunately, according to Gallup and Dr. Clifton, our society is upside-down with its approach to personal development. Imagine your child brings home a report card with an A in mathematics, C's in art and p.e, and a D in English. You want to encourage your child to be better student. He needs to focus on his English, right? Wrong. Dr. Clifton and Tom Rath, who wrote Strengths Finder 2.0, believe we should help this student develop his natural gift for math. The child in this scenario has a possible future as an astronaut or engineer, not as a writer; devoting the lion's share of time and energy into his weakness would be unproductive and ultimately frustrating for the student.

Strengths Finder 2.0 is a combination of a book and a test. The test determines your areas of talent, and the book explains what an interested reader could do with their new information. The test is about 20 minutes long and at the end you are given a list of your five top talents. I found that the results matched pretty well with my understanding of myself. At this point, the experience is more interesting than useful. Like discovering that you are a "type A" or "type B" personality, it is fun to examine yourself, but doesn't really mean anything in your day-to-day life. The author understands this and encourages the reader to actively use this information to help guide themselves in directions where they could be successful.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys learning about themselves. Whether the information is useful in helping your life is something else. I think there are social forces that guide us to our areas of strength without the aid of conscious decision-making. Positive and negative feedback have forged the life-paths for most of us. More importantly, I think that an individual should take on any challenge that inspires them, regardless of their natural ability in that field. The idea that we should view our lives as an attempt to maximize our comparative advantage is too calculated for me. But, to whatever degree you want to use your results, the experience was fun and knowing your strengths certainly couldn't hurt.

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