Are you familiar with the Cambridge Analytica (CA) story?

Cambridge Analytica “used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission to build a system that could target US voters with personalised political advertisements based on their psychological profile, according to Christopher Wylie, a former Cambridge Analytica contractor who helped build the algorithm” (Ref: The Guardian).

Putting my “people and behaviour” hat on, I find this whole event fascinating. Why…?

CA used an algorithm to psychologically profile 50M Facebook profiles. But they didn’t do something pioneering, they just got revealed. The “smoke and mirrors” vanished and exposed what was behind their modus operandi.

Psychologists have been exploring profiling for years.

Psychological profiling scores you on the Big Five personality traits, also known as the Five Factor Model (FFM). You can read a lot more on this @Wikipedia, but in layperson’s language, the Big Five are as follows:

  1. Openness: Do you welcome new experiences?
  2. Conscientiousness: How much of a perfectionist are you?
  3. Extraversion: Are you a party animal?
  4. Agreeableness: How compassionate are you to others?
  5. Neuroticism: Do you often worry or get easily upset?

But is it accurate? 

“Studies indicate that the Big Five traits are not nearly as powerful in predicting and explaining actual behaviour as are the more numerous facets or primary traits”…So the answer is yes, but not in isolation.

From an Organisational and Leadership perspective, numerous studies have been done looking into Leadership and Behaviour Traits. Without getting into Culture, Sex, Race etc., which all have a part to play, the Big Five is considered as the most widely accepted model (Ref:  Leadership: Theory and Practice Paperback – 26 Feb 2015, Amazon Books).

Looking at this from a safety at workplace perspective, there is now an endless choice of providers offering data analytical services. Each provider has their own brand and labels with all sorts of fancy names, badges, bells and whistles.

In my experience, yes….human psychology, behaviour, personality (whatever) has a big part to play. In many organisations,  psychological profiling plays a pivotal role in the Management of Organisational Change (or Change Management ) process.

When you think about the Big Five, the Facets, combinations and permutations…

“want to buy a lottery ticket”?

Data mining is not new but as they say the “devil is in the detail“. 

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