Chapter 2. Personal Foresight - Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Big Five Personality Traits

OCEAN (Big Five) is by far the most evidenced-based personality trait model available today. It has been studied by psychologists for decades, and each of the five traits it proposes has been independently rediscovered via statistical surveys in large samples of people. This doesn’t mean the model is perfect. For example, it may be missing additional traits, as we will see. But it is a great starter tool to find stable aspects of your personality, and test them again in five years and see how stable they really are.

The better any model assesses your traits, the better you’ll know who you are now, and what kind of work fits your current strengths, and what kind of work will also move you toward where you want to go, over time. The Big Five traits, and some of their correlated or consequential traits (in parentheses) are:

One Individual’s Big Five Trait Score

One Individual’s Big Five Trait Score

Openness (Informed, Creative)
Conscientiousness (Organized, Determined)
Extraversion (Sociable, SelfConfident)
Agreeableness (Accepting, Cooperative)
Neuroticism (Anxious, Stressed)

A free 25 question version is available at Psychology Today’s site. Where do you fall on each of these traits? Our differing levels of each trait can account for many of our thinking and behavior differences, and there is a large number of possible combinations. While single standard deviations above or below the mean on any trait are healthy, extreme variances in any of them can cause problems, even personality disorders.

Nettle (2009)

Nettle (2009)

The model can help explain why one person prefers to drift from job to job for years, highly open to new experiences and so agreeable that they are happy finding a personally meaningful but low-paying career, while another picks one specialty early in life and conscientiously and neurotically climbs the ranks to early wealth and status. A good introductory book on the Big Five is Daniel Nettle’s Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are (2009). Using molecular, genetic and fMRI techniques, Nettle and other psychologists have found that about half of the variance in our Big Five traits is genetic, and the other half is due to environmental factors that we can influence.

I like to think of the half-nature, half-nurture quality of personality traits like this: we can influence all our traits, but our genetics are an evenly-matched opponent, at least at first. We can proactively grapple with that opponent and slowly move our less-desired traits to where we want them to be, “dance the monster,” as my mother liked to say, or we can avoid the fight, be reactive, and let our genetics and the random environments we enter determine our trait levels. It’s our choice. But to make a choice, we should first understand the consequences of our current traits, and ask if those consequences are what we want. If not, we need to know where we want to go as well. What traits fit best with your aspirational self?

Whether we choose to grapple or be passive, our traits often have big life consequences. Nettle outlines a famous study by Kelly and Conley, which followed 300 couples over fifty-two years (1935-1987), and found that high levels of neuroticism in either partner was a strong predictor of divorce, and of marital unhappiness for those not divorced. Yet neuroticism in moderation has also been repeatedly correlated, along with conscientiousness, with great producers and managers. The key to outcomes with all our traits is their strength, mix, and the social contexts in which they operate.

Let’s consider a brief scenario for the future of trait management. If our accelerating IT capabilities continue as they have, and we get a working conversational interface to the web on our mobile devices in the next decade or so, I can imagine many of us using a digital agent (a “Personal OS” or “Digital Twin”) that helps us assess our traits daily by listening to what we say, and watching what we write and read.  Such an agent could guide us into online cognitive behavioral activities and games that measure and help us change our traits, day by day, simply by consciously engaging in activities that support the outcomes we desire.

Just as importantly, the emergence of groupnets, tightly connected, sensor-equipped groups of individuals that automatically share rich and nearly 24/7 continuous data (pictures, audio, video, data) about their lives to each other, will bring our current offline support groups, recovery groups, and productivity groups to whole new levels. People in groupnets will be able to watch each other in realtime, review and relive recent events, and even speak words of encouragement into each other’s ears as appropriate. The group will be there for individuals when they’re in need, and these folks will truly begin to see the world through each other’s eyes. Folks looking for help will find it just a voice query away, from someone else in the group. Many types of trait and behavior change work will become significantly more powerful as a result.

What cognitive behavioral therapy research has shown to date is that anyone who has cognitive or affective blocks, including mild Asperger’s, OCPD or ADHD, or who feels they have inappropriate levels of any personality trait, can make lasting changes to their mental state with time and practice. What’s more, the better we get at understanding the neural circuits that underlie each of our traits, the better we’ll get at designing activities that affect our scores on those traits, and using the power of cognitive priming (where recent past mental tasks affect our current tasks) and the learning capacity of the human brain. Such daily scoring and practice work can set us on a steady trajectory to where we want to be. I think computing and communications technologies as they move us closer to the conversational interface and the groupnet will truly empower trait change and self-improvement work as never before.

To apply the Big Five both personally and in business settings, Nettle’s book above, and Pierce and Jane Howard’s, The Owner’s Manual for Personality at Work (2000) are good basic guides. Howard’s Center for Applied and Cognitive Sciences offers more books and certifications in Big Five testing and application, for those interested in offering it to their teams.

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Table of Contents


Chapter 2. Personal Foresight – Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 2: Personal Foresight

Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Chapter 4. Models – Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 4: Models

Foundations for Organizational Foresight

Chapter 7. Acceleration – Guiding Our Extraordinary Future

Chapter 7: Acceleration

Guiding Our Extraordinary Future (In Process)

II. Global Progress: 5 Goals, 10 Values, Many Trends

Innovation: Our Abundant Future
Intelligence: Our Augmented Future
Interdependence: Our Civil Future
Immunity: Our Protected Future
Sustainability: Our Rebalanced Future

III. Universal Accelerating Change

Great Race to Inner Space: Our Surprising Future
Entropy&Information: We’re Running Down & Up
The Puzzle of Meaning: We Have No Einstein Yet
Trees, Funnels & Landscapes: Intro to Evo Devo
Big Picture Change: Five Scales of Accelerating ED
Transcension Hypothesis: Where Acceleratn Ends?
IDABDAK: Social Response to Accel & Developmnt
We’re On a Runaway Train: Being Accelaware

IV. Evo Devo and Exponential Foresight

Seeing It All: Accel., Diverg, Adapt, Convrg, Decel.
Natural (I4S) Innovation: The Evolutionary Drive
Natural (I4S) Intelligence: The Human-AI Partnership
Natural (I4S) Morality: Why Empathy and Ethics Rule
Natural (I4S) Security: Strength from Disruption
Natural (I4S) Sustainability: The Developmental Drive
S-Curves: Managing the Four Constituencies
Pain to Gain: Traversing the Three Kuznets Phases
Hype to Reality: Beyond Hype Cycles to Reality Checks
Exponentials Database: Measuring Accelerations
TINA Trends: Societal Evolutionary Development
Managing Change: STEEPCOP Events, Probs, Ideas
A Great Shift: A Survival to a Sentient Economy

V. Evo Devo and Exponential Activism

Building Protopias: Five Goals of Social Progress
Normative Foresight: Ten Values of Society
Top & STEEPCOP Acceleratns: Positive & Negative
Dystopias, Risks, and Failure States
Three Levels of Activism: People, Tech & Universe
A Great Opportunity: Exponential Empowerment


Chapter 8. Your Digital Self – The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

Chapter 8: Your Digital Self

The Human Face of the Coming Singularity (In Process)

I. Your Personal AI (PAI): Your Digital Self

Digital Society: Data, Mediation, and Agents
Personal AIs: Advancing the Five Goals
PAI Innovation: Abundance and Diversity
PAI Intelligence: Bio-Inspired AI
PAI Morality: Selection and Groupnets
PAI Security: Safe Learning Agents
PAI Sustainability: Science and Balance
The Human Face of the Coming Singularity

II. PAI Protopias & Dystopias in 8 Domains

1. Personal Agents: News, Ent., Education
2. Social Agents: Relat. and Social Justice
3. Political Agents :  Activism & Represent.
4. Economic Agents:  Retail, Finance, Entrep
5. Builder Agents :  Work, Innov. & Science
6. Environ. Agents : Pop. and Sustainability
7. Health Agents :  Health, Wellness, Death
8. Security Agents :  Def., Crime, Corrections

III. PAI Activism & Exponential Empowerment

Next Government: PAIs, Groupnets, Democ.
Next Economy: Creat. Destr. & Basic Income
Next Society: PAI Ent., Mortality & Uploading
What Will Your PAI Contribution Be?

Chapter 10. Startup Ideas – Great Product & Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs

Chapter 10: Startup Ideas

Great Product and Service Challenges for Entrepreneurs (In Process)

I. 4U’s Idea Hub: Building Better Futures

Air Deliveries and Air Taxis: Finally Solving Urban Gridlock
Ballistic Shields and Gun Control: Protecting Us All from Lone Shooters
Bioinspiration Wiki: Biomimetics and Bio-Inspired Design
Brain Preservation Services: Memory and Mortality Redefined
Carcams: Document Thieves, Bad Driving, and Bad Behavior
Competition in Govt Services: Less Corruption, More Innovation
Computer Adaptive Education (CAE): Better Learning and Training
Conversational Deep Learning Devsuites: Millions of AI Coders
Digital Tables: Telepresence, Games, Entertainment & Education
Dynaships: Sustainable Low-Speed Cargo Shipping
Electromagnetic Suspension: Nausea-Free Working & Reading in Cars
Epigenetic Health Tests: Cellular Aging, Bad Diet, Body Abuse Feedback
Fireline Explosives and Ember Drones: Next-Gen Fire Control
Global English: Empowering the Next Generation of Global Youth
Greenbots: Drone Seeders and Robotic Waterers for Mass Regreening
High-Density Housing and Zoning: Making Our Cities Affordable Again
Highway Enclosures and Trail Networks: Green and Quiet Urban Space
Inflatable Packaging: Faster and Greener Shipping and Returns
Internet of Families: Connecting People Over Things
Kidcams: Next-Gen Security for Child Safety and Empowerment
Kidpods: Indoor & Outdoor Parent-Assistive Toyboxes
Microdesalination: Democratizing Sustainable Fresh Water Production
Noise Monitors: Documenting and Reducing Noise Pollution
Oceanside Baths: Sustainable Year Round Beach Enjoyment
Open Blood Scanners: DIY Citizen Health Care Sensor Tech
Open Streaming Radio: User-Centered Audio Creation and Rating
Open Streaming Video: User-Centered Video Creation and Rating
Open Values Filters: Social Rankers, Arg. Mappers, and Consensus Finders
Personal AIs: Your Private Advisor, Activist, and Interface to the World
Pet Empowerment: Next-Gen Rights and Abilities for Our Domestic Animals
Safe Closets: Fire-, Earthquake-, and Intruder-Proof Retreat Spaces
Safe Cars: Reducing Our Insane 1.3M Annual Auto Deaths Today
Safe Motorcycles: Lane Splitting in Gridlock Without Risk of Death
Shared Value Insurance: User-Centered Risk Reduction Services
Sleeperbuses and Microhotels: Demonetized Intercity Travel
Space-Based Solar Power: Stratellite Powering and Weather Management
Stratellites: Next-Gen Urban Broadband, Transparency, and Security
Touch DNA: Next-Gen Home Security and Crime Deterrence
View Towers: Improving Urban Walkability, Inspiration, and Community

Chapter 11. Evo Devo Foresight – Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Chapter 11: Evo Devo Foresight

Unpredictable and Predictable Futures

Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice