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Test psychometrics


Developing psychometric instruments requires specialized knowledge and experience, including the ability to interpret results accurately and handle them responsibly.

Since its inception in 2005, Spiral Drives has collaborated with a group of highly experienced (test) psychologists, ensuring the quality of our test development. Through this collaboration, we’ve gained a significant amount of knowledge about the characteristics and uses of the Graves instruments.

Transparency and openness about this knowledge are essential to us. We aim for the correct utilization and utilization of Graves-based instruments, which is why we’re happy to share our knowledge on this page.

Measurement methods

In test psychometrics, two common measurement methods are:

  • Ipsative
  • Absolute

Each of these methods has its specific characteristics and applications. We’d like to explain them to you here:

Ipsative measurement method

In the ipsative measurement method, you, as the respondent, allocate a fixed number of points among a set number of response options, usually fifteen points among seven options (ranging from purple to turquoise).

Points are primarily assigned to the option that holds the highest preference; the rest do not receive points. Consequently, the outcome of such a test indicates the preferences for certain drives in comparison to all other drives.

This implies that the result of an ipsative Graves test represents a person’s relative preferences. “Ipse” is the Latin word for “self”. It measures and displays the distribution of preferences within an individual, where the total amounts to 100%. This approach is highly accessible, free of judgement, and serves as a valuable starting point for a developmental process.

Absolute measurement method

In the absolute measurement method, each drive is measured independently, without the obligatory allocation of 15 points among the 7 drives. Each question now stands alone and is individually answered using a 5-point Likert scale:

  • completely disagree
  • disagree
  • neither agree nor disagree
  • agree
  • completely agree

Each drive is measured independently, detached from the others, resulting in the outcome displaying the score for each autonomous drive. Consequently, each drive’s score can essentially be 100%, regardless of the scores of other drives.

This method, therefore, provides more opportunities for statistical research and is commonly employed in traditional psychological tests. The result presents an absolute score for each drive, compared to a representative norm group. Hence, it’s referred to as an absolute measurement method.

Application in Spiral Drives™

Our Individual and Team drivesDNA™ employ the ipsative measurement method. This makes them accessible, unbiased, and highly effective for process-oriented development. The Team drivesDNA™ includes a special diversity graph, providing direct and concrete insights into underlying team dynamics.

Culture and energy constitute the deepest undercurrents in teams and organizations. For this layer, we’ve developed the Collective drivesDNA™ utilizing the absolute measurement method. This offers deeper quantitative insights and is suitable for clear analyses and assessment purposes.

Taking it a step further, our specialized instruments (Personal and Team Orientation Perspective) fully utilize the absolute measurement method, including norm groups.

Extra: Team Averages in an Ipsative Test

An ipsative test illustrates the distribution of preferences for drives within a single person. It shows the highest and lowest preferences relative to each other. This method is widely used for Graves-based instruments, including at Spiral Drives.For team analysis, it’s often an option to merge individual team members into a single graph, displaying the average of their preferences. However, this holds very limited value. There’s a common misconception that a team graph or profile speaks to the culture, energy, or underlying dynamics in a team.

To understand the underlying team dynamics, one must compare individual drives side by side to identify similarities and differences. However, this information is lost in an average graph. That’s why Spiral Drives, in its Team drivesDNA™, not only includes the average but also explicitly illustrates the relationships between individual drives.

When focusing on culture and energy, we’re addressing an entirely different layer. These elements are part of the collective and are shaped by a team’s shared past experiences. This specific feature, “shared past experiences,” is unrelated to individual drives influencing thoughts, feelings, and actions in the present moment. Therefore, we must separately measure culture and energy on the collective level.

Thus, an average team graph reveals nothing about the culture or energy, just as a measurement on the collective level reveals nothing about the (individual) preferences of team members.