In the July issue, readers were fascinated by the psychological (psychometric testing); the spiritual (how CEOs can glean business lessons from the Bible); and the methodological (new market-research techniques). Some choice comments:

Psycho Babble

An article on the fad of employee psychometric testing (" Psycho Path," by Christopher Caggiano) received the largest number of responses this month. Writes one proponent of testing:

I would like to thank Christopher Caggiano for his article on personality testing. Objective psychological tests are a great tool--when they're used correctly. As Caggiano pointed out, integrating the test results with other information about a person offers the best outcome. No test is perfect (and interviewers can be worse!), but when combined with other information, tests offer insights not to be found otherwise. Maybe that is why tests seem better for development purposes than for making hiring decisions--supervisors know their employees better and can use the test results as a springboard for discussion, rather than take them at face value as they might with a potential hire.

Ari Tuckman
Director of Communications
Business Mediation Associates
Washington, D.C.

Another reader disagrees with Tuckman. He contends that such tests have a role in the hiring process.

As one who does nothing other than assess, train, and coach entrepreneurs and their start-ups, I want to affirm the profitability of using some sort of psychometric testing to ascertain an employee's current "fit-ness" for a company. However, while I agree that these instruments help after hiring an employee, I'd argue that they can provide more benefit before the actual hiring decision. If they're used and interpreted responsibly, psychometric tests can flag possible "incongruencies" in the candidates' statements or even in their work record, the validity of which should later be tested in a behavioral-interview format. Failure to address inconsistencies before hiring results in a very unhealthy, and expensive, decision--not to mention loss of credibility with current employees.

Jim Griffith
The Griffith Group
Englewood, Colo.

And how about using the tests to strengthen employees' marriages?

I read your article with great enthusiasm. All the employees at our business took the Myers-Briggs test some five years ago. In addition, their spouses were invited to come for the day to take it as well. I'm sure you can imagine the results. We had couples who had been married for more than 20 years suddenly understanding why the significant other behaved a certain way at a party or other function.

Deborah Byrne
Operations Manager
Refrigerated Transport Electronics
Mcgraw, N.Y.

Caggiano's article noted that there are legal issues surrounding the use of psychometric tests. This consultant wrote to clarify what those issues are:

A key to avoiding legal pitfalls when using psychometric instruments in the recruiting and selection process--besides avoiding those tests intended for use by mental-health professionals--is to have a benchmark or set of benchmarks to match candidates to positions. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that matching candidates to positions based on the essential duties and characteristics required to perform the job is acceptable. In Griggs et al. v. Dukes Power Co., 401 U.S. 424, 1971, pp. 433-436, the Court held that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 "does not preclude the use of testing or measuring procedures, but it does proscribe giving them controlling force unless they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance."

John S. Lybarger
Lybarger & Associates
Westminster, Colo.

Testament on the Good Book

Burton L. Visotzky, a New York City-based rabbi who works with CEOs, wrote a column about the management lessons to be derived from the Bible.

I started reading your article with the most hesitation in the world. The term "Bible study" stirs in my imagination groups of people more concerned with their own spiritual salvation than the day-to-day well-being of their fellow man. Boy, was I wrong! As I write this I'm wishing I could be part of your group. The intellectual challenge alone would be worth the price of admission. I grew up with a healthy dose of both Catholic and Jewish teachings. The Bible's applicability to living your earthly life had never been quite clear to me until I read your article. Those teachings must be an integral part of our daily lives and must not be forgotten Monday through Friday. Clearly, God's word can provide plenty of lessons for today. Thank you for reminding me of that. I hope more of us learn the importance of faith as it guides us in everything we do.

John A. Polvino
Digital Print Services

This reader was not nearly as impressed:

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Moses' negotiations with Pharaoh are an example for modern-day businesspeople on "getting to yes!" Abraham's pleading with God over Sodom and Gomorrah is a guide for funding a defunct business to salvage the fractional part that is profitable. Sarah's burial is an example of how to use your dead to make a business deal. And Jacob's betrayal of family values for personal gain by exploiting his brother's weakness and his father's disability are boardroom tactics. I guess that's why you folks write about business instead of doing it. Tell me, is there at least one among you who realizes how badly you have been taken? Woe be unto those who cannot recognize how much of a reach this was for someone to be able to ride on the "Eastern philosophy as business guide" trend, for their futures are sure to see seven years of famine.

Dan Roach
Sole Proprietor
Portland, Maine

Of course, there were other fans of Visotzky's work, including this reader. He had previously formulated that same hypothesis.

Thank you, Rabbi Visotzky, for writing it, and thanks, Inc. editors, for publishing it! Several months ago Inc. ran an article identifying the 10 most important books for business (" The Eight Books to Read Before You Start Your Business," State of Small Business issue, 1998). I was unhappy that the Bible was not listed, but I hadn't really expected it to be. I own my own business, and reading the Bible every night, along with prayer, definitely strengthens my character, improves my demeanor, and enhances my management abilities at work. Living by faith and walking closely with God (or always attempting to) can have dramatic effects on you and your business.

J.T. Kirkpatrick III
Member and General Manager
Material & Product Services

Close to You

Joshua Macht's " The New Market Research" gave readers the scoop on the latest industry trends and techniques that help companies get inside consumers' heads. Some market researchers, such as this one, wrote to contest Macht's analysis.

In our two decades as market researchers, we have rarely read a more poorly contrived indictment of our profession. Your characterization that "a single focus group can run as high as $20,000" is ridiculous. Yes, we are sure you can find one example where this was so because of various difficulties in recruitment and location. But the reality is that most focus groups, from soup to nuts, still run from $3,000 to $4,500 apiece. Today, nearly 30 years after the focus-group methodology first gained purchase with the American business community, it remains the single most cost-efficient, timely method for gaining deep insight not only into what consumers think and how they act but also into why. Your advice to "observe, listen, really listen, put aside biases, analyze" is merely what any qualitative researcher worth his or her fee already does. That there are practitioners out there who do not do this merely points out that our profession, we believe, sorely needs some method of measuring competence.

Sheila M. Reilly
Reilly Group
Newport, R.I.

Kevin C. Reilly
Charlottesville, Va.

Another researcher, however, thought Macht did discuss some cutting-edge ideas--such as ethnographic research.

It was great to see mention of ethnographic research as a means of informing product development. This has been a slowly growing area over the past decade. It is true that the results are far more insightful than what you get from traditional marketing research. As companies realize that quantitative research is no guarantee of a successful product, they will want to know more, want to know why consumers behave as they do. Consumer behavior is a far richer area of research than consumer opinion. To get at behavior, one must observe and listen, just as Macht most ably pointed out.

Chris Conley
Design Research Associates

House of Corrections

In the July What's Hot (Hands On), we muddled the case-sensitive address of a Web site in Australia. The correct URL:

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