Written by: Kim Dowdeswell, Managing Research Scientist, SHL on 30 July 2018

For a number of years now, Assessment Centre practitioners have had to deal with geographically dispersed candidates for selection into geographically dispersed working teams, and the rise of various technologies to facilitate such selection and development application scenarios. Digitisation may describe a wave of advancements and innovations that may help or hinder the Assessment Centre practitioner. Just think about the possibilities – and challenges – that something like a Virtual Reality Assessment Centre could bring.
And a discussion on adapting to disruption would hardly be complete without mention of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. In the context of Assessment Centre practice, I have to ask: can intelligent machines replace humans in the role of assessors?! Considering views regarding the role of the IO Psychologist in occupational assessment – shared at both the SIOP 2018 and SIOPSA 2018 conferences – suggest that while technologies and automation is anticipated to be used extensively in the future, there would still be a human making the ultimate decision based on all the data gathered.

Other posts have discussed a number of disruptors that we could talk about at length in relation to Assessment Centre practices, and there are probably many more out there that we haven’t yet considered or aren’t even aware of yet. But for this piece, I would like to take a view from one step back. And that is, a reminder of the context of use for Assessment Centres: Organisations. Whether an Assessment Centre is employed for selection or development purposes, its use occurs within the broader context of an organisation, with its own organisational culture and structure.

Around about the time I agreed to participate in the 2018 ACSG IGNITE session, I had the privilege of encountering a gentleman arguing passionately for the principles laid out in Frederic Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations. The author discusses the concept of how organizations have evolved over time, shows why our (organizational) world looks like it does today, and sketches possibilities for the future.

While modern organizations have brought about sensational progress for humanity, many people sense that the current way we run organizations has been stretched to its limits. We are increasingly disillusioned by organizational life. Case in point: that the Dilbert cartoons could become cultural icons says much about the extent to which organizations can make work miserable and pointless.

In his book, Laloux explores if we could invent a more powerful, more soulful, more meaningful way to work together, if only we change our belief system… so he asks, “What do organizations molded around the next stage of consciousness look and feel like?” In early conversations, I was reminded of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: how do we evolve organizations to devise a new model that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful?

In the roughly 100,000-year history of humanity, we have gone through a number of successive stages. At every stage we made a leap in our abilities – cognitively, morally, and psychologically – to deal with the world. With every new stage a new way to collaborate, a new organizational model was invented and key breakthroughs in ways of working were made.

Guiding Metaphor Key Breakthroughs
In Impulsive RED organisations, there is constant exercise of power by the chief in order to keep foot soldiers in line. Highly reactive, short-term focus. Thrives in chaotic environments. Wolf pack - Division of labour
- Command authority
In Conformist AMBER organisations, there are highly formal roles within a hierarchical pyramid, with top-down command and control. The future is repetition of the past. Army - Formal roles (stable and scalable hierarchies)
- Stable, replicable processes (long-term perspectives)
In Achiever ORANGE organisations, the goal is to beat the competition; achieve profit and growth. Management by objectives, or in other words, there is command and control over what, and freedom over how. Machine - Innovation
- Accountability
- Meritocracy
In Pluralistic GREEN organisations, within the classic pyramid structure there is a focus on culture and empowerment to boost employee motivation. Stakeholders replace shareholders as primary purpose. Family - Empowerment
- Egalitarian management
- Stakeholder model
In Evolutionary TEAL organisations, self-management replaces the hierarchical pyramid. Organisations are seen as living entities, oriented toward realising their potential. Teal organisations base their strategies on what they sense the world is asking from them. Living organism - Self-management
- Wholeness
- Evolutionary purpose

What determines which stage an individual operates from boils down to choice, about how to deal with challenges faced. Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha, an author and life coach, notes “Every challenge you encounter in life is a fork in the road. You have the choice to choose which way to go― backward, forward, breakdown or breakthrough.”

Similarly, what determines which stage an organization operates from is its leaders and their leadership styles. Most organisations today could be classed either as orange or green, where leadership styles are goal- and task-oriented and consensus-oriented respectively. For teal organisations, it is more about distributed leadership, with inner rightness and purpose as primary motivator and yardstick. Self-management is key.

And now for the role of Assessment Centres in all this. The Assessment Centre methodology is incredibly well positioned to support organisations in their evolution to teal organisations, helping assessors to evaluate potential candidates’ fit to the organisation and giving candidates a realistic preview of what operating in such an organisation is like. As Assessment Centre practitioners, it is critical to ensure we understand at what level the organisation is operating on and ensure our Assessment Centres are designed to reflect that.
In closing, some food for thought. What could a teal Assessment Centre look like?

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