I’ve always been interested in personality testing. My Dad set up a career consultancy company in the late 80s. He administered personality tests to individuals – like the 16PF and the Myers Briggs – and then discussed the implication of the results in relation to their career development.

My sister and I were early guinea pigs. I knew I was an ENFP before I knew what GCSEs I would take and I still have my 16PF report from 1987 – see image. (I think I’ve changed a bit, but not much. I suspect that if I repeated it, I’d be less suspicious, more of a loner, slightly more controlled and much more imaginative.)

Knowing these things about myself early on hasn’t really helped me though. I mean, it’s obvious that there are some situations that I would excel in and some that I wouldn’t, but I suspect that I knew most of these things about myself intuitively anyway.

But there’s one test that I came across about 2 years ago and wish I’d found it earlier. It’s not a personality test – but a test about work tasks. It’s called Working Genius. The idea is that there are six broad types of work which the test ranks for you. It outlines your:

  • 2 Working Geniuses – your top 2 types
  • 2 Working Competences – your middle 2 types
  • 2 Working Frustrations – your bottom 2 types

It’s not an exaggeration to say that taking this test changed my life. As a result of taking the test, I decided to stop self-publishing games to give me more time to design (to then pitch to bigger publishers). I also started saying ‘no’ a whole lot more – and with good reason.

Let’s have a quick look at the Six Types of Working Genius.

  • The Genius of Wonder (W): The natural gift of pondering the possibility of greater potential and opportunity in a given situation.
  • The Genius of Invention (I): The natural gift of creating original and novel ideas and solutions.
  • The Genius of Discernment (D): The natural gift of intuitively and instinctively evaluating ideas and situations.
  • The Genius of Galvanizing (G): The natural gift of rallying, inspiring and organising others to take action.
  • The Genius of Enablement (E): The natural gift of providing encouragement and assistance for an idea or project.
  • The Genius of Tenacity (T): The natural gift of pushing projects or tasks to completion to achieve results.

My results show that my working geniuses are Invention and Discernment. These are not only things I’m good at, but activities that give me energy and bring me joy – and for me that is the absolute key. My working competencies – Wonder and Galvanizing – are types of work that I may be reasonably good at, but don’t derive particular joy from doing. If I have to spend the bulk of my time doing them, over time I’m liable to burn out. But my working frustrations – Tenacity and Enablement – are things that I need to avoid. These will be tasks that make me miserable. 

Reading the report was like a lightbulb switching on… but a really really big lightbulb – like one in a lighthouse. Of course I was exhausted by self-publishing. These are projects that require a lot of Tenacity to complete and then a lot of Galvanizing to sell – 95% of the work fell outside my working geniuses. 

The brilliance of the Working Geniuses model is that everyone has two geniuses and everyone has two frustrations. My geniuses will be different from yours. There are people that are brilliant at the type of work I hate (thank goodness) and vice versa. The pairing of your two working geniuses helps you to know what kinds of work you’ll probably love and therefore excel at, and what types of work you’ll ultimately hate. 

I’m an ID – The Discriminating Ideator. This is described as being: “A creative, intuitive, and confident generator of new ideas. Uses instinct and integrative thinking to solve real problems.”

I’ve now crafted my job so that I’m Inventing and Discerning almost all of the time. 

  • Coming up with ideas for new games (invention) and developing them (discernment). 
  • Playtesting other people’s games and feeding back with comments (discernment) and, when asked for, ideas (invention). 
  • Developing games for publishers (discernment and invention)
  • Providing consultancy services for other game designers (mostly discernment but a bit of invention).
  • Writing blog posts (invention and discernment, mostly)

Lots of time for inventing new games and then abandoning the non-starters – like this silly one.

I’m generally good at this stuff, but of course, there are rough edges. I’m liable to throw ideas out early on – before they are fully developed, because I’ve decided that they’re no good. I might miss some potentially good ideas, by shutting them down too quickly. When writing, I often edit as I go, which can stop me getting into a flow. 

I’m now much more relaxed and happy – which is helping me to enjoy my life outside work. Here’s a friend and I backstage at our recent production of Urinetown. 

I do have to spend some work time doing other types of working genius, most notably:

  • Making sure I’m creating games that will actually of interest/use (wonder)
  • Pitching games to publishers (galvanising) 
  • Finishing prototypes (tenacity)

I’m getting good at saying ‘no’ to anything that comes my way where I’ll have to operate largely outside my working geniuses. There are people far better suited to this type of work than me. 

I urge everyone to take the Six Working Geniuses test. It makes so much sense and it’s super-easy to understand. It costs $25. In my opinion, its value far outweighs the cost. If you take the test, please do share your thoughts about the assessment in the comments. If you can’t afford to take the test, do have a look at the website as you may glean some insights there anyway. 

I want to clarify that I am in no way affiliated to the company that runs this test, nor do I have any connection with any of the people that work there. I am just a fan.