Does your job match your personality? | Jordan Peterson


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It’s not that easy to categorize jobs but here’s a categorization scheme that’s kind of general but that’s actually accurate.

Okay, so the first dimension is complexity. Jobs range from simple to complex. A simple job is one that you can learn and then repeat. You don’t need high levels of cognitive function for a simple job. If you have high levels of cognitive function you’ll learn the job faster, but once you learn it you won’t necessarily do it better.

Now, a complex job is one where the requirements change on an ongoing basis. So most managerial jobs are like that, and all executive jobs are like that. And that requires a high level of general cognitive ability. That’s the best predictor of success in complex jobs. Okay, so that’s axis number one.

Axis number two is creative/entrepreneurial versus managerial/administrative. Okay, so for creative/entrepreneurial jobs you need people who are high in the personality trait “openness to experience,” Big Five personality trait that’s associated with lateral and divergent thinking. Those are creative types.

And for managerial and administrative jobs, and those are jobs that are more algorithmic—So imagine the guardrails. You’re a train on a track and you want to go down the track fast. You don’t have to be creative to go down a track that’s (already laid down) fast. You have to be conscientious. And so the best personality predictor for managerial and administrative jobs is trait “conscientiousness”.

Okay, so there’s a tension in organizations between lateral and divergent thinking and efficient movement forward.

Now if you know what you’re doing, what you want is conscientious people. Because if you know what you’re doing you should just do it as efficiently as you can. But the problem is is the world changes around you unexpectedly.

And so if you don’t have people who can think divergently when the marketplace shifts on you—which it most certainly will—then you don’t have anybody who can figure out where to lay new tracks. Now it’s really, really difficult for people, for corporations to get the balance between the entrepreneurial/creative types and the managerial/administrative types correct.

And what I think happens—and I don’t know this for sure and the research on this isn’t clear yet—What seems to happen is that when a company originates the creative/entrepreneurial types predominate, and they have to be flexible and move laterally to get the company established to begin with and take risks and break rules and do all sorts of things that conscientious people are much less likely to be able to tolerate (let alone think up).
But as the company establishes itself the managerial/administrative types pour in and take over. But if they take over too much then the company gets so rigid it can’t— it has no flexibility.

Okay, so the first thing you need to do to manage a large enterprise is to understand that these are actually different people.

So first of all everyone is NOT creative. That’s a lie.

So we established this measurement instrument called the creative achievement questionnaire which is very widely used in creativity research now. And what you see – so what it does is it breaks down creativity into 13 dimensions – entrepreneurial, architectural, literary, dramatic, inventions, et cetera, business, you can imagine—Painting, et cetera.

You imagine the 13 potential dimensions of creativity. And then it ranks order levels of creativity from “Zero, I have no training or talent in this area,” to “Ten, I have an international reputation in this area.”

And then we plotted the scores. This is the distribution. It’s not a normal distribution. Sixty percent of the people who take the creative achievement questionnaire score zero. A tiny minority have high scores, and that’s a pareto distribution. It’s a classic distribution of human productivity. So you always get a pareto distribution, not a normal distribution when you’re talking about productivity. Creative people are a distinct minority. They’re a different kind of person, and they’re a pain. They’re a pain because you can’t evaluate them. It’s like, how the hell do you evaluate a creative person? Because they keep changing the rules of evaluation! So they’re a handful to manage, and they’re always trying to play a new game. Well that’s a real pain if you want to get somewhere fast.


49 thoughts on “Does your job match your personality? | Jordan Peterson

  1. I am interested on this take on creativity. So can creativity mean something else than just artistic talent? He was saying how creative people are needed in businesses.

  2. um…Not only was he just rambling, the title has nothing to do with what he's talking about

    "There is no proof on this but…" … "Having the right balance of people in your organization is key but no one knows what the correct balance is…" … "Creative people are unique snowflakes that need special care…"

    There is nothing to take away from this and therefore it's fairly useless. I think he's just stroking his own ego

  3. I am now retired. It was my experience throughout my "career" that "corporations" are the most rigid non-creative entities in the business world. I made my way with really extensive skill sets. I covered the spectrum from blue collar to management and back again. From employee to independent business owner. What I found was a wasteland filled with idiots that qualified for their positions because they had a bachelor's degree. Incompetent fools that perhaps should have been hired as a trainee but certainly not in any supervisory capacity.

  4. All people are creative deep down. He’s lying when he says some people are not. People are creative in different ways and find different ways to express this. A simple questionnaire is not going to reveal how creative somebody is. I’m sorry, that is just pure nonsense. Creativity is something that is innate in all human beings, it’s what you’re born to do. Ok, most people may not end up in creative industries because general speaking creative jobs are far more competitive and pay less, but that doesn’t mean you are not creative. He’s wrong.

  5. if the company gets big enough, it won't die, it just gets new management. Which essentially is another way to put the whole company on fire and rebuild it……………… yes……..companies die?

  6. As a person with very high levels of both Conscientiousness and Openness I prefer to get fascinated by and obsessed with solving problems and answering esoteric questions of little actual use to anyone else.

  7. I have an easy job that is repetitive and it takes a lot of brain function just to get through the day without thinking about just walking or killing myself from the boredom of it all from the shitty people i have to put up with everyday. it a nightmare everyday day seems the same and i'm trapped in a loop of boredom trying to make a conversation out of nothing just to break the silence around me.

  8. I believe JBP could explain better without reading… but thank you for the content. Some times I get stuck between having to go after a stable job or pursue my own creative path…

  9. Those are all good points. But he ignored something important. In creative fields, a good reputation is self-perpetuating because of the mere-exposure effect. People tend to like things more when they encounter them more frequently. So those creative people at the top of the distribution are not necessarily the best. They might just be the people who were in the right place at the right time to find an audience, and get them acclimated to the idiosyncrasies of their work before someone objectively better showed up.

  10. "Most managerial and executive jobs are complex"
    What a fucking idiot.

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