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A few months ago, I joined a new organization and team. I had to take the StrengthsFinder test. My number 1 strength was Ideation. People in my field tend to be good at that, but I wasn’t expecting that result. I’m quiet, reserved, not good at thinking on my feet on a whiteboard — basically the opposite of what I thought people with this strength would be. I'm better at staying on the periphery, analyzing the ideas written on a whiteboard, seeing connections, and helping the team move forward with a direction.

As part of our annual performance goals, our department has us create an objective that helps us improve our strengths. Finding weaknesses in myself to improve is not a problem for me. I had to think a lot about strengths to improve. This may be one of them. I know I’m very strong in analytical and logical thinking (which also shows up in my StrengthsFinder results), but that tends to come at the expense of emotional intelligence (the main weakness I want to work on). In this new position, I primarily conduct research studies.

What are some good ways to ensure that this strength that I didn’t know I had gets properly developed?

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    Just because I'm a cynic: if an arbitrary test tells you that your top skill is something you didn't know you had, consider the possibility the test is wrong. – Philip Kendall Sep 17 '19 at 6:23
  • Also see Susan Cain's TED Talk, The power of introverts. – user25792 Sep 17 '19 at 6:36
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    Note that most personality tests, including the StrengthsFinder, is purely based on what you say. The tests just draw a circle around related concepts, give it a name, and inform you of what you yourself said (technical name is factor analysis or principal component analysis) - only in different words. If the test said you probably had a strength of ideation, it is because you told it you thought you were good at/preferred to behave in ways that are related to the concept of 'ideation' (coming up with alternatives, thinking of multiple ways to do things, etc). Something to consider. – BrianH Sep 17 '19 at 15:29
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What are some good ways to ensure that this strength that I didn’t know I had gets properly developed?

I recommend using the resources provided by the creators of the StrengthFinders test to inspire you and working with your manager to develop your strengths e.g.

Seek brainstorming sessions. With your abundance of ideas, you will make these sessions more exciting and more productive.

Schedule time to read, because the ideas and experiences of others can become your raw material for new ideas. Schedule time to think, because thinking energizes you. 1

I also recommend taking the results of these types of personality tests with a grain of salt. They can certainly inform you of what you may not know about yourself, but I don't recommend only using their results to determine how you should grow in your career. Work with your manager and seek out other professional mentors.

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Although my personal opinion is that assessment tests should be taken with a grain of salt, my experience with StrengthsFinder is that many people find it insightful, if not accurate.

Finding weaknesses in myself to improve is not a problem for me....emotional intelligence (the main weakness I want to work on).

With respect to StrengthsFinder, it sounds as though you may not have absorbed one of the key tenets of the program: fixing weaknesses can only lead to mediocrity, but building strengths can lead to greatness. That is, if you're not adept at a skill, working to improve in that area may get you to average, at best. On the other hand, if you apply effort to an area where you have talent, you're can reach above-average skill level (since you're not starting at square one).

I’m quiet, reserved, not good at thinking on my feet on a whiteboard — basically the opposite of what I thought people with this strength (ideation) would be. I'm better at staying on the periphery, analyzing the ideas written on a whiteboard, seeing connections, and helping the team move forward with a direction.

There's a bias towards extroverts in group situations (see, Quiet by Susan Cain, or her TED talk), but activity is not the same as action. Extroverts and introverts think and act differently; the buzz of brainstorming can spur the former, but it can leave the latter without "space to think."

Ideation isn't about whether you think best in a performative or an introspective environment - it's about the insights and concepts that you produce. Building the strength of Ideation doesn't mean you have to learn to "think on your feet." In fact, that might backfire if you're talking just to get discussion points, before your best ideas are developed. It does mean that you have to have the confidence and ability to get those ideas out of your thoughts and into the collective mind of your team. Un-shared ideas cannot be acted upon.

Consider the environment and culture at your workplace, and look for opportunities to contribute in your own way. If your team has a "whiteboard and go" approach to problem solving, how can you keep the conversation going if you have a great idea after the discussion ends? Not every meeting has to end with a decision, and having a reflection period before putting decisions into action can help. In fact, it's a good practice to leave the discussion open for people to contribute after the meeting has ended (especially important if your meetings tend to be dominated by a few good talkers).

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