Korean media outlet, Maeil Business Times, recently interviewed Dr Stewart Desson, founder and chief executive officer of Lumina Learning, to find out the limitations and points for improvement on existing psychometric tests. “[Depending] on certain situations, individuals may reveal different personalities,” Desson said, stressing the limitations of dichotomous personality testing as it lacks this distinction between the situational personalities. The Lumina Learning programme identifies the personality in three perspectives or “personas”: the underlying, every day and overextended personality.
“by taking a humanistic approach and viewing people as ‘human beings’ rather than ‘human doings’, we help organisations transform their performance by transforming their people. This philosophy is integrated into our psychometrics and their supporting resources. Clients want more than just a tool; they expect the design and resources to go with it to make a difference in their organisation” – Dr Stewart Desson
Where did the idea of Lumina Learning originate from? Was there a particular incident that made you think of building the Lumina Learning business?
Two incidents were the catalysts for the forming of Lumina Learning. The first incident was personal and happened early in my career when I was on a British Airways leadership development programme. The programme was brilliant, but the psychometric test put me in a ‘box’ and I hated the idea of being reduced to a label. I did not want to choose my personality as one of the two options to distinguish myself as a “certain type” person. For example, I thought it was inappropriate to be categorised as either a “thinker” or a “feeler.” Also, based on this dichotomous personality test, the HR department prevented me from pursuing the career path that I was interested in. This led me to examine how a psychometric could measure personality more accurately, scientifically and inclusively. I became passionately engaged in enriching self-understanding.
The second incident occurred years later when I ran a leadership development programme, designed by a top business school. The programme used a psychometric, but the design limited the psychometric to a short module. The leaders were left unsure how to practically apply the self-awareness knowledge in their leadership.
As Lumina Learning was born in the digital age, the Lumina Spark psychometric sits in a cool app on the individual’s smart phone. Their results are expressed using innovative infographics like the colourful ‘Lumina Splash’. These are designed to be shared with others as a catalyst for practical conversations about how business relationships can be improved based on their combined psychometric data.
For those who are unfamiliar with Lumina Learning’s popular ‘Lumina Spark’ tool, could you walk us through in detail how your programmes work?
The Four Principles of Lumina Spark
At the core of all of our applications are four basic principles which form an ‘up hierarchy’ of learning.
At the base of the pyramid, the first principle is ‘Self-Knowledge’, the foundation stone that underpins effective 21st century organisations. Raising self-awareness is the first step for working effectively with others and the key trait for top leaders and teams.
The second principle is ‘Valuing Diversity’, enabling respect for each individual and the contributions they make to the organisation. Generating an inclusive environment increases motivation, positive engagement, and greater confidence in self-development.
The third principle is ‘Building Rapport’, enhancing workplace connections and influence. Understanding and adapting to others’ communication styles is the key to building closer, and more trusting relationships with colleagues and clients.
At the top of the pyramid is the principle of ‘Co-Creating Results’ – the final step in creating a thriving work environment to drive positive productivity. There is extensive evidence that real collaboration, built on the strengths of diverse thinking, open communication, and strong relationships, gives consistently better results.
There are many personality type tests/assessment tools. Exactly how is Lumina Spark different from the other personality type tests? What benefits and business learning can companies gain from Lumina Learning tools that the others do not provide?
Lumina Learning has a wide range of assessments. Lumina Spark and Lumina Team create high performing individuals and teams, Lumina Leader develops transformational leaders, Lumina Emotion brings about culture change, Lumina Select places the right people in the right roles for superior performance, and Lumina Sales enables salespeople to build rapport and make greater sales faster.
By underpinning everything we do with these four principles, I believe we do much better than the mass of other tests and assessments on the market.
Firstly, by taking a humanistic approach and viewing people as ‘human beings’ rather than ‘human doings’, we help organisations transform their performance by transforming their people. This philosophy is integrated into our psychometrics and their supporting resources. Clients want more than just a tool; they expect the design and resources to go with it to make a difference in their organisation.
Secondly, we believe in measuring all of your personality, without bias or stereotyping. We give people the tools to understand their whole way of being; to explore their potential without limits.
Thirdly, our approach fundamentally avoids false dichotomies. With Lumina Spark, individuals are not simply extraverted or introverted, not just a thinker or a feeler. Unlike other tools, Lumina Spark shows you how to work with all aspects of your personality. In a nutshell, we help people embrace the paradox of who they really are and better support their performance improvement. In Asia this addresses a significant issue, as the more Western approach of valuing extraversion above introversion does not serve Asian companies well.
Fourthly, we measure three personas – the Underlying, Everyday, and Overextended you. We help individuals understand the full dynamic of their personality with no need for lengthy additional assessments. The three personas are presented in an easily grasped graphical format that helps people quickly make sense of themselves and take meaningful action.
All of the above combine to make our learning solutions sticky and practical, and ensure they bring about the return on investment that organisations across the globe are looking for in selection and development.
You mentioned that Lumina sees each individual as a ‘whole human being’. Please explain this in more detail.
Many of the organisations I worked for thought of their employees as ‘working machines.’ The managers treated them as if they were the parts of machines. Of course, the responsibilities of each employee were clear, and their performances were managed, so the organisations performed well to some extent. However, organisations that have achieved better results treated their employees as ‘whole human beings’. If companies treat each employee as a “whole human being,” they will achieve more than expected.
Why are Lumina Learning programmes particularly useful for Korean organisations?
Korean organisations have been highly effective at getting great new products to market quickly. However, the changing global market and the transition of China from customer to competitor are having an increasing impact on the economy. The ageing of society and generational workstyle gaps with millennials also need to be addressed. There is an urgent need for company cultures to transform from a more traditional hierarchy to a flatter, open and more socially sustaining environment where employees are motivated and encouraged to contribute ideas and innovate at every level of the organiation. All Lumina Learning’s selection and development resources are uniquely positioned to meet these needs by bringing the ‘human’ back into organisations, increasing inclusion and fostering great innovation across the workplace. They are focused on making work more enjoyable for every generation and result in higher levels of engagement and productivity.
You are also collaborating with or in talks with Korean companies. Which Korean companies are interested in using Lumina Spark? If there are companies that have already used Lumina Spark, how has the workplace changed compared to before?
In collaboration with the Lumina Learning Japan and Korea Partner, last year we qualified ten Lumina Spark Practitioners in Korea who work with a number of Korean organisations, one of which is LG.
We are extremely proud to be supporting LG and other significant global companies that are truly Korean success stories. LG use Lumina Spark to support their ongoing drive towards greater innovation. Lumina Spark and Lumina Leader are designed into many innovative development solutions in Korea that empower personal growth, create high-performing teams and build inclusive and transformational leaders. Importantly, Lumina Learning strives to bring its world-wide experience to Korea and provide skills transfer from its global network of expert consultants to empower the brilliant Korean facilitators and coaches we work with in many Korean organisations.
Other Korean organisations are using Lumina Spark to create customised selection solutions that reduce cost whilst increasing the engagement and retention of their people. What all of our clients love is access to a powerful methodology, with Lumina Spark at its heart, supported by a wide range of tools and profiles that underpin best-in-class solutions.
How will your assessment tools be improved in the future?
We will never stop improving our suite of products. As we move into new markets around the world, there is a never-ending need to understand new cultures and translate our resources.
From a technology point of view, the assessment market is going through big changes. The future is digital reports, with artificial intelligence built into them. In the last ten years, our streamlined cloud-based system has significantly reduced the cost involved in administering psychometrics. More importantly, the algorithms and intelligence integrated into our system have significantly increased the number of people that can be touched by our products globally.
Our next key challenge is to have the technology communicate directly with the individual to help them make their goals into a practical reality. I hold a vision of the Lumina Splash App talking and interacting freely with our customers, becoming a catalyst to improve their performance at work.
To date, how many employees are there at Lumina Learning? Who are your major clients?
We have a growing team of 30+ highly professional and creative staff at our Global Office in London comprised of technologists, business psychologists, and product developers and a business delivery team all devoted to creating the most innovative world-beating apps for our global clients. We also currently have 39 offices headed by our Lumina Learning Partners with 100+ staff in the field around the world.
We serve our clients in over 53 countries, in all areas of the globe from the Americas to EMEA, and across Asia and Australasia. We work in 50% of the world’s top global organisations. Here are just a few quotes from our customers:
- LIXIL partnered with us on team-building, leadership, and culture-change using both Lumina Spark and Lumina Leader and stated, ‘The most valuable part of this initiative by far was getting the Japanese legal team to open up and engage in real communication with members of the global team and the business legal team.’
- THALES have worked with us globally, and in the words of Lucy Finney MBE ‘Using Lumina Learning and design thinking, people really get to understand much more than just process – they understand people, teams, and process in order to get to a final product that will actually meet the customers’ needs.’