HBDI, Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, HBDI Training

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

This is the ultimate guide to the HBDI psychometric tool. You can understand what this tool is. You can learn its benefits and see examples of how we can help you to use it.

 In this Ultimate Guide we will look at the following, you can jump to sections with these links below:

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, for instance,  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.

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Who Founded this Psychometric Test?

The creator William ‘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 1960s 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.

HBDI, HBDI Quadrants

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How Popular is the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument?

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. For example, IBM, Coca-Cola, Kraft, Goldman Sachs, and Target, to name but a few.

Herrmann International do not ‘sell-on’ their product, like many other psychometric tools.  This means that the team have full access to all profiles ever made, therefore, they can derive many more insights for practitioners to use. This profiling right brain left brain test is also CPD accredited, and accredited by the American Society for Training and Development. Furthermore, Peter Drucker, the business guru, also recommends it in the Harvard Business Press on Knowledge Management.

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What Can You Expect from Using the Assessment?

The 120-question survey results in a profile of your preferred thinking styles.  Consequently, by understanding your preferences you can achieve a greater appreciation for how you learn, make decisions, solve problems, and communicate.   The survey measures preferences and not skills, however, note that it is not a test and there are no right or wrong answers.

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Example of a Completed Profile

To illustrate, below is an example of MBM Director and qualified practitioner Andy Palmer’s completed brain test:

HBDI, HBDI Profile

Undoubtedly, 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 the 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.

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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 to represent ‘groundedness’. Quadrant C is about feeling & emotion, so red was chosen.  Finally, 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’.

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Looking at the Profile – What do the Numbers Mean?

HBDI, HBDI Profile Numbers

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 label 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).

For instance, Andy has an ‘1122’ profile which means that he has a strong preference for thinking in Blue and Green, and a general preference for thinking 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 Herrmann 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 ‘backup 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 who 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!

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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. The Herrmann team suggest that, as a result of 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?

HBDI, HBDI Colours and HBDI Percentages

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 the 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 think that being dominant in all four quadrants would be an advantage, however, the disadvantage might be that the person might take a long time to come to a decision.

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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.

For instance, hearing a fellow colleague that ‘needs a plan’, as a yellow, can be dismissed as someone who is ‘anal about detail’. Or, likewise, the green that sees a friend talking about 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 confirm the numbers, the greens create the plan, and the reds buy people into the journey – To put it simplistically!

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How Could You Use the Learnings from Your Profile?

By understanding yourself better you could ‘play to your strengths’, thus using your time to do more of the activities that are in your quadrant. Additionally, ‘use’ the people around you for the quadrants where you are not as dominant. As a result of better understanding others, you can communicate in ‘their language’, give feedback how they need to hear it, and 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 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 is that you can show your profile to someone and they 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 woman 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.

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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 the test to help me present better?’ To illustrate, the trainer drew this flip-chart and the group understood instantly.

HBDI, HBDI Presentation

The flip-chart shows the 4 quadrants of the dominance model. Each square on the flip-chart 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 see how your audience reacts. If the audience is dominant in a colour, then consequently, your presentation should lean towards this style of communication.

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How Could You Improve Your Decision Making Approach?

We all make hundreds of decisions each day, many of the decisions we make have an 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.

HBDI what, why, how, who

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

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How Could You Improve Your Problem Solving Ability?

Problem-solving by brainstorming underpinned with the HBDI ® profile is undoubtedly 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. To illustrate, here are 4 different ways to brainstorm, each using a different quadrant of the brain.

  • Maths-storming – the blue quadrant.
  • Similar-storming – the green quadrant.
  • People-storming- the red quadrant.
  • Super-storming – the yellow quadrant.

All brainstorming techniques are available, plus others.

It is important not to exclusively select the technique from your highest degree of preference. For example, as a blue, I may find the blue technique most comfortable, yet the yellow could yield better ideas and different results.

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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 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 with 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.

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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. However, the challenge is working on those less dominant quadrants, and using the strengths of the people in your team to be ‘a whole brain’.

Herrmann International has 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’.

HBDI, whole-brained teams


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Other Psychometric Tools

Psychometric tools and tests can help to find a person’s ‘fit’ within a business by evaluating their skills, knowledge and personality. They are often heavily used for recruitment, but can also provide useful data as a management tool for team development and leadership success. Furthermore, they can help the person develop an awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses.

There are a variety of psychometric tests available. Some focus on measuring a particular skill or aptitude, whilst others look to create a profile of specific traits.

Here is an overview of some of the most widely used psychometric tests:

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

Analyses an individual’s personality traits, classifying them according to Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types: extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, (and adding a fourth) judging/perceiving. To find out more see our Ultimate Guide to Myers Briggs.

DiSC Assessment

DiSC is a behaviour assessment tool based on the theory of psychologist William Moulton Marston. It explores four different behavioural traits: dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. It helps aid discussion of people’s behavioural differences.

The Belbin Team Inventory

Also called the Belbin Self-Perception Inventory, Belbin Team Role Inventory, BSPI or BTRI. It is a behavioural test devised by Meredith Belbin to measure preference for nine different team roles: plant, resource investigator, coordinator, shaper, monitor evaluator, teamworkerimplementer, completer finisher and specialist.

The GC Index

This profiling tool focuses on an individual’s preferred contribution style to a role or company. It uses the following categories: implementer, polisher, playmaker, strategist and game changer.

FIRO-B (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation)

Introduced by William Schutz in 1958, this tool explains the interpersonal interactions of a group of people, based on how much interaction a person wants in the areas of, inclusion, control and affection.

Hogan Development Survey (HDS)

The HDS measures a person’s tendencies when under stress. It can help show the ‘dark-side’ personality characteristics that can damage relationships and impinge upon long-term success.

Occupational Personality Questionnaire (SHL’s OPQ)

Developed by Saville & Holdsowrth Ltd, the OPQ is a personality test commonly used for recruitment. It measures 32 different personality traits as indicators of job-relevant behaviours.

Big Five Personality Traits

Also known as the five-factor model (FFM), the test consists of a series of statements, to which the subject answers how much they agree or disagree with. The test measures: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These allow personal insight into how they will likely react in different situations.

Personality and Preference Inventory (PAPI)

Originally designed by Dr Max KostickPAPI is a personality measure designed to elicit behaviours and preferences which are relevant to the workplace.

Management Styles Inventory (MSI)

This is a self-scored tool that evaluates the effect on co-worker potential of an individual’s style of management. It explores the manager’s assumptions and priorities about the relationship between concerns for performance and concerns for people.

CTPI-100 (The Central Test Personality Inventory)

A personality-based test used primarily for managerial and executive-level candidates to show personality traits and behaviour competencies.

16pf (Sixteen Personality Factor Questionnaire)

Used to show an individual’s dominant personality traits. It explores 16 factors: warmth, reasoning, emotional stability, dominance, liveliness, rule-consciousness, social boldness, sensitivity, vigilance, abstractednessprivatenessapprehensiveness, openness to change, self-reliance, perfectionism, and tension.

Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)

Helps measure how a person behaves when presented with a conflict situation. It analyses the dimensions, assertiveness and cooperativeness. We use this tool for Executive Coaching to help the coachee find and assess their conflict resolution skills.

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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 (MBTI), which helps us understand how we perceive the world & make decisions. Our preference is the HBDI Whole Brain Model because it is easy to grasp, whilst being able to offer insights to Learners, so they can become more comfortable with how they prefer to think.

The following White Paper looks at HBDI and other assessments and how they can work together.

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

HBDI, cerebral mode

Model Validation

A number of validation studies have been carried out over the last 10 years. Of these, including Berkeley, California, and the University of Texas, 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. You can, of course, 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?

In our opinion, after working with these profiles for over 14 years the answer we 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 tolerance comes appreciation because you then start to want to use their thinking to enhance your own.

For example, it is 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 it helps us to coach more effectively because we understand the person better and to help the coachee understand themselves better. Consequently, understanding the model provides a platform to give better feedback, in turn, improving communication and team leading.

For Team Building we find that it helps the team to particularly meet 3 of the 7 essential qualities of the Teamwork competency framework. For instance, (E) Trustworthy relationships, (F) Excellent communication, and (G) Feeding back to each other.

‘Whole Brain Learning’ enables the Learner to understand:

1) why they prefer to understand facts that support the learnings (blue quadrant), or

2) learn better by understanding metaphors (yellow quadrant), or

3) see why they need to create an action plan to carry out learnings (green quadrant), or

4) why they learn better through physical activities where they can touch and feel the learnings (red quadrant).

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Understanding More About this Psychometric Model

TEDx Talk Tryon – Ann asks the question, “Do you manage your brain or does it manage you?” To reach your potential and use your brain to the full, you need to understand how it works. And, thus, what you can do to better use it.

In this 4 minute video Ned talks about his model:

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Further Reading and Understanding

Herrmann certified practitioner

We particularly use this brain dominance thinking in our Team Building or you can get training on understanding the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument. Interested? Complete your details below and one of our qualified HBDI practitioners will be in touch.


HBDI Video Tips

Watch Tips on how to use HBDI in the workplace:

Further Resources

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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.