HBDI Brain Storming Techniques

Here is the Ultimate Guide to HBDI ® – Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument:

In this ultimate guide to this psychometric tool (HBDI) you can understand what this tool is, its benefits, practical examples of how to use it, how to get it, and how we can help you to use it for you and your team.

What is the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument?

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument is a psychometric assessment that shows how you prefer to think. Often referred to as the ‘Whole Brain Model’ it shows us which areas we prefer to think, and which areas we prefer not to think. There are many psychometric tests, like Myers-Briggs, or Belbin, or Firo-B. Each helping us to understand our abilities, motivations, personality, and much more. In this post MindTools explain more about the plethora of Psychometric tests (Or Brain tests, as they are known), that are available.

Who Founded this Psychometric Test?

The creator Willian ‘Ned’ Herrmann was a physicist by training. He worked at General Electric for over 35 years as a manager. Fascinated by the creative aspects of the brain, he was searching for a way to inspire creativity in the GE employees. Since the 1960’s Ned researched, developed, and validated this dominance model. A conceptual representation of his model is below. Ned was also considered by many to be the ‘father of brain dominance technology’ (brain research).

Sadly Ned died on 24th December 1999. His daughter Ann Herrmann-Nehdi is now the CEO.


How Popular is the HDBI?

Over 2 million people have completed their profiles across 45 countries. It has been the subject of 250 dissertations, more than 30 books (‘The Whole Brain Business Book‘ being the best seller), over 100 articles, and used by world class companies,  such as IBM, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Goldman Sachs, Target, to name but a few. Herrmann International do not ‘sell-on’ their product, like many other psychometric tools, which means that the team have full access to all profiles ever made and so they can derive many more insights for practioners to use. This profiling right brain left brain test is also CPD accredited, and accredited by the American Society for Training and Development, and Peter Drucker, the business guru, also recommends it in the Harvard Business Press on Knowledge Management.

What Can You Expect from Using the HBDI ® Assessment?

The 120-question survey results in a profile of your preferred thinking styles. By understanding your preferences you can achieve greater appreciation for how you learn, make decisions, solve problems, and communicate, and why you do these and other things the way you do. The survey measures preferences rather than skills. It is not a test; there are no right or wrong answers.

What Does a Completed HBDI ® Profile Look Like?

Andy is a Director at MBM and a qualified practioner. Below is Andy Palmer’s completed brain test:


As an overview Andy is a blue, which means that he is keen on facts and the details. Under pressure, the dotted line, Andy thinks more in next steps and planning (Green). He struggles with creative thinking (Yellow) and is not particularly a feelings person (Red). His profile is explained in more detail below.

The profile above shows 4 quadrants which show the brain as:

  • The blue and green quadrants representing the left side of the brain.
  • The yellow and red quadrants representing the right side of the brain.
  • The blue and yellow quadrants representing the top half of the brain.
  • The green and red quadrants representing the bottom half of the brain.

Each quadrant has certain characteristics:

  • A – Blue quadrant: Logical, technical, and financial. In a single word ‘Fact’, or as a profession – Engineer.
  • B – Green quadrant: Organised, detailed, and structured. In a single word ‘Form’, or as a profession – Project Manager.
  • C – Red quadrant: Emotional, sensory, and people. In a single word ‘Feeling’, or as a profession – Teacher/Nurse.
  • D – Yellow quadrant: Risk taker, intuitive, and big picture. In a single word ‘Future’, or as a profession – Entrepreneur.

A word of caution: We need to be careful not to ‘pigeon hole’ a person to a colour because we can all do all colours. This is about our preferences.

Looking at the Profile – What do the Colours Represent?

Quadrant A is about facts and ‘computing’, and so ‘Cerulean Blue’ was chosen. Quadrant B is about organisation & structure, and so green was chosen for ‘groundedness’. Quadrant C is about feeling & emotion, so red was chosen. Quadrant D is about imagination so yellow was chosen for its vibrancy.

Our own personal take is that the relationship of the colours to the quadrant characteristics is a little tenuous. This is because blue will not be seen by everyone as a ‘computing’ colour. The very useful part is that the colours enable our clients and Learners to talk with each other in the third person. For example, by saying, ‘Oh, I now understand why you ask those questions, because you are a blue, and you need to know the detail’.

Looking at the Profile – What do the Numbers Mean?


On every profile there are 3 sets of number; Preference Code, Adjective Pairs, and Profile Scores.

Preference Code

This consists of four numbers placed in order of the quadrants: ABCD. The terms ‘Strong Preference’, ‘General Preference’, and ‘Avoidance’ are used to designate the 1, 2, 3 zones of the profile grid and corresponds to the Profile Scores; 1 corresponds to a strong preference (above 66), 2 corresponds to general preference (33 – 66), and 3 is a negative preference – that is, an avoidance (0-33).

Andy has a ‘1122’ profile which means that he has a strong preference for thinking in Blue and Green, and a general preference for thinking in in Red and Yellow. He does not have any 3 scores which would be quadrants that he wishes not to avoid thinking in.

Adjective Pairs

In the HBDI ® questionnaire you are asked to choose between 12 pairs of adjectives designed to see how you prefer to think under pressure – 24 points distributed across the 4 quadrants. This gives the dotted line preference showing our profile under pressure, also known as your ‘back-up style’.

For Andy this means that when he is under pressure he chooses to think more in the Green quadrant, which is about planning. Consider someone that when the ‘chips are down’ they might respond with, ‘Firstly, let’s get a meeting, secondly, let’s decide on ABC, and thirdly, we’ll organise the XYZ’.

Profile Scores

The scores range from 8 to 189 show how much you prefer to think in that quadrant when not under pressure.

The numbers simply show how far your profile ‘reaches’. The further your outline reaches the outer circles the more you prefer to think in that way. You can think in all 4 quadrants. You just prefer to think in some, rather than others. Andy prefers to think in facts (Blue 108), which means that he can be known to want 3 decimal places!

Looking at the Profile – What Does the Dotted Line Mean?


The dotted line shows how Andy prefers to think under pressure, or when he is stressed. In his case he becomes more organised because the dotted line extends from reaching just the first circle to almost reaching the outer circle. This manifests itself as needing to list all the tasks that he needs to do and organise them into a plan.

Not everyone’s profile changes under pressure, and the Herrmann team suggest that with the demands on the average knowledge worker, our stress profile (dotted line) is probably how we prefer to think at work all the time.

Looking at the Profile – What Do the Percentages Mean?


The percentages show how much Andy thinks in the top versus bottom half of his brain, and how much he prefers to think in the left versus right hand side of his brain.

Looking at the Profile – Is there an Ideal Profile?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that whilst you could conclude that being dominant in all four quadrants would be an advantage, the disadvantage might be that the person might take a long time to come to a decision.

How Do Quadrants Get Along with Each Other?

As a rule of thumb the diametrically opposed quadrants, e.g. blue & red, and yellow & green, will find it most challenging to get along. It can unfortunately be human nature to dismiss what we don’t understand.

Hearing a fellow colleague that ‘needs a plan’, as a yellow, can be dismissed as someone that is ‘anal about detail’. Or the green that sees a friend talking of crazy ideas and thinks that ‘he just has his head in the clouds’.

The challenge is to appreciate the strengths of others because the yellows have an idea, the blues validate the numbers, the greens create the plan, and the reds buy people into the journey – To put it simplistically!

How Could You Use the Learnings from Your Profile?

By understanding yourself better you could ‘play to your strengths’ by using your time to do more of the activities that are within your quadrant. And ‘use’ the people around you for the quadrants where you are not as dominant. By understanding others you can communicate in ‘their language’ better, give feedback how they need to hear it, understand the weaknesses in your team, to name only a few of the applications.

To measure how well you use your understanding of the colour test you can download our competency framework. This will help you to understand how a person uses HBDI ® psychometric this left or right brain test on a basic level and on more advanced levels.

The smart guys at Herrmann have also launched the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument app ® that helps you to have your profile on the move. The idea being that you can show your profile to someone and them show you theirs. Compare. Understand each other better.


Can You Give Specific Examples to Help Me Understand Further?

A husband and wife are buying a house. The lady dominant in the red quadrant and the man dominant in the blue quadrant. He likes a particular house because it is only 4.7 miles from the train station. She prefers a particular other house because it ‘feels right’. Both quadrants thoughts are ‘right’. The challenge is to appreciate each other’s perspective and celebrate that it is different. And then to find common ground, e.g. they both think in yellow and therefore they buy more on their yellow thinking.

Learning Time Management a Blue Learner may be more interested in the technique of putting a time against each task on their daily list because they can analyse how they spent their time. Learning Negotiation Skills a Green Learner may be more interested in the 7 stages of a negotiation because they can see how the negotiation will progress through the stages.

How Can You Present More Effectively by Appealing to All 4 Quadrants?

In a Herrmann ® training a Learner asked one of our trainers, ‘How can I use HBDI ® test to help me present better?’ The trainer drew this flipchart and the group understood instantly.


The flipchart shows the 4 quadrants of the dominance model. Each square on the flipchart shows how a slide could be presented to communicate more effectively to all 4 quadrants and the 4 main questions asked by each quadrant. The Blues ask ‘What?’, the Yellows ask ‘Why?’, the Greens ask ‘When?’, and the Reds ask ‘Who?’.

If you are unsure of the profile of your audience we suggest appealing to all 4 quadrants. This can be done and tested by ensuring that there is a particular slide that will appeal to each colour and then seeing how your audience reacts. If the audience is dominant in a colour, then your presentation should lean towards this style of communication.

How Could You Improve Your Decision Making Approach?

We all make hundreds of decisions each day, many of the decisions we make impact on other people, and more often than not without having the time to really think about them fully. Using Whole Brain decision making, we can help leverage our own preferences and our not so preferred preferences to make faster and better choices.


We use the above matrix and these sample questions, working around the quadrants to more better understand perspectives and considerations.

How Could You Improve Your Problem Solving Ability?

We have all heard of brainstorming as a tool for problem solving, however under pinning it with the HBDI ® profile it can become even more powerful. Brainstorming is a creative technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem. It is usually done as a group with ideas and solutions spontaneously created. Here are 4 different ways to brainstorm, each using a different quadrant of the brain.


  • Math storming – the blue quadrant.
  • Similarstorming – the green quadrant.
  • Peoplestorming- the red quadrant.
  • Superstorming – the yellow quadrant.

All brainstorming techniques are available, plus others.

It is important not to only select the technique from your highest degree of preference, i.e. as a blue, I may find the blue technique most comfortable, yet stretching myself to use the yellow could yield better ideas and different results.

How Could You Increase Your Thinking In Your Less Preferred Quadrants?

You can stimulate the other quadrants of your profile by doing activities in the quadrant. Here are some examples of activities that will can help a Learner to be more of another quadrant:

For the Blue Quadrant

  • Take a current problem situation and analyse it into its main parts.
  • Convert your retirement dreams into a quantitative map from now to then.
  • Write a critical review of your favourite movie.

For the Green Quadrant

  • Assemble a model kit by the instructions.
  • Develop a personal budget.
  • Organise your picture files.

For the Red Quadrant

  • Play with your children the way they want to play.
  • ‘Dance’ without moving your feet.
  • Take a 10-minute ‘feeling break’ every morning, afternoon, and evening.

For the Yellow Quadrant

  • Invent a ‘gourmet’ dish and actually prepare it.
  • Allow yourself to daydream.
  • Imagine yourself in the year 2025.

How Can Whole Brain Thinking Support Leaders to Be Better Leaders?

By understanding your people better you can communicate more ‘in their language’. You can understand that a leader can be dominant in any quadrant. The challenge is understanding yourself better and then both working on those less dominant quadrants, and using the strengths of the people in your team to be ‘a whole brain’.

Herrmann International have written an excellent white paper called ‘Inclusive Leadership Playbook‘. This whitepaper explains how leaders should embrace diversity and that ‘whole brained teams are 66% more effective than homogeneous teams’.



How Does the Herrmann Brain Dominance Test Compare to Other Psychometric Profiling Tools?

There are many psychometric profiling tools understanding the part you play in a team (Belbin), to how you react in conflict (TKI), to Myers-Briggs, which helps us understand how we perceive the world & make decisions. Whilst we work with all of these tools, our preference is this left and right brain test because it is easy to grasp whilst being able to offer further insights as Learners become comfortable with how they prefer to think.

This post from Training Zone provides a much deeper insight into Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument ® vs MBTI (Myers-Briggs). Our own experience tells us that Learners rarely remember their Myers-Briggs 4 letters, yet nearly always remember which colour they are.

HBDI ® profile

How Has this Model Been Validated?

A number of validation studies have been carried out over the last 10 years, including Berkeley, California, the University of Texas, and all have proven positive. Experts in the field consider this to be rare. Read more about the details of the validating studies.

Instructions to Get Your Own Profile of Brain Hemisphere Thinking

The average time it takes to complete the questionnaire (in one session) is 20 minutes, although you can complete the questionnaire in multiple sessions. An introductory price for one profile is £45. If you would like some more information about completing a profile(s) complete the short form below.

What are the Benefits of Using this Brain Preference Model?

After working with these profiles for over 14 years the answer we at MBM have come to is, ‘Tolerance and Appreciation’. In essence, by understanding that people think differently you can start to ‘tolerate’ why they ask the questions they do. After this stage of tolerance comes appreciation because you then start to want to use their thinking to enhance your own.

It’s easy for the yellow quadrant to see the green quadrant, logical, robot-like, and reserved, as ‘detailed monkeys’. The appreciation comes when the yellows struggle to plan and a green can easily answer the how.

How Do We at MBM Use the Herrmann profiles for Our Clients?

We use this brain profile for Executive Coaching, Team Building, and for some clients, to help every Learner as they progress through their training.

For Executive Coaching we find that using HBDI ® helps us to coach more effectively because we understand the individual better, and to help the coachee understand themselves better. Plus, by both the coach and coachee understanding the model it provides a platform to discuss giving better feedback, communicating better, leading teams better, and much more.

For Team Building we find that using HBDI ® helps the team to particularly achieve 3 of the 7 essential qualities of the Team work competency framework. These 3 are (E) Trustworthy relationships, (F) Excellent communication, and (G) Feeding back to each other.

For the Learner understanding ‘Whole Brain Learning’ enables them to understand why they prefer to understand the facts that support the learnings (blue quadrant), or learn better by understanding metaphors (yellow quadrant), or why they need to create an action plan to implement the learnings (green quadrant), or why they learn better through physical activities where they can touch and feel the learnings (red quadrant).

Understanding More About this Psychometric Model

TEDx Talk Tryon – Ann asks the question, “Do you manage your brain or does it manage you?” In order to reach your full potential and get the most out of your brain, you need to understand how it works and what you can do to better use it.

In this 4 minute video Ned talks about his model:

Further Reading and Understanding

We particularly use this brain dominance thinking in our Team Building or you can get training on understanding Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument. Interested? Complete your details below:

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets and Suppliers for over 20 years. He began his career as a buyer at one of the big 4 UK supermarkets and after rising through the ranks he decided to leave after 13 years and set-up Making Business Matter.For the last 14 years he has run MBM, which is a training provider to the UK grocery industry. Helping suppliers to the big four supermarkets to develop the soft skills that will secure them more profitable wins.

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