Kolbe Index: Unlocking Your Conative Mind

I love mental models, personality tests, and anything that will help me understand who I am and how I operate, and help me become a better version of myself. Earlier this year, I took some time to learn the process and methods behind Enneagram (I’m a 9 with a 1 wing). I’ve also been a fan of Myers-Briggs for years, taking the test every six months on average (consistently INFJ since late 2019). Today, I’m going to share a little about another, the Kolbe Index.

Founder Kathy Kolbe starts by explaining three core parts of the brain: Cognitive, Affective, and Conative.

Cognitive deals with intelligence, and can be measured through tools like IQ tests. Affective deals with emotion, and tests like the Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment. Both of these have the ability to transform over time as you learn, grow, and experience the world. Along similar lines, Enneagram is based on motivation and your WHY; it’s said that this doesn’t change over time, but rather if you get a different result, you’re probably being mis-typed.

Kolbe, on the other hand, looks at your Conative abilities.

Your conative mind contains the instincts and innate attributes that define your natural method of operation (MO).

The Kolbe Wisdom

Not only does Kolbe look at and explain your instinctive strengths and expose the ways in which you are productive, it shows how you align with tasks and other people. With this information, you can develop solutions for productivity, increase your performance at work, and even improve your relationships.

Next I’ll do a brief overview of the Kolbe Index before digging deeper into what it all means while sharing my results. First, though, here’s a quick overview from Kolbe:

The Four Action Modes of the Conative Mind

Kolbe breaks down the conative mind into four action modes: Fact Finder, Follow Thru, Quickstart, and Implementer. And the Kolbe Index ranks those who take it from 1-10 for each of these modes. I’ll give a quick overview of each mode below, and share the range of what the Kolbe Index measures within each.

The ranking of 1-10 actually includes three groups. If you rank in the upper range 7-10 in a mode, Kolbe lists it as Initiate Action. 4-6 is ReAct, and 1-3 is CounterAct.

Fact Finder looks at how we gather and share information. On the CounterAct end, you just get an overview. ReAct, you get the facts. For Initiate Action, you get as many facts as possible.

Follow Thru looks at the “instinctive need to pattern and the way we organize and design,” per The Kolbe Wisdom. Quickstart focuses on improvisation, risk, and uncertainty. Implementor looks at the “instinctive need to demonstrate and the way we handle space and tangibles.

I glossed over a lot here, as obviously it goes quite a bit deeper. You can find more information on The Kolbe Wisdom page linked in the last paragraph. I’ll dig a little deeper into each below, and share my results to explain both how it works and how it manifests in my day-to-day life.

My Kolbe Index Results

During the hiring process for my role as Digital Marketing Director with Keller Williams’ ROP and OP Linda McKissack, Kolbe was one of a few different personality and cognitive tests I took–or, in this case, a conative test. I was reminded of this earlier this week during a call with someone we’re working with on a new business venture; he and I geeked out a bit on the Kolbe Index and our respective results, and he explained a few things about it that re-sparked my interest.

Hence this deep dive, which you’ll see next is my mode of operation.

I’m a 9-6-3-2 on the Kolbe Index, where 9 means I’m high on the Fact Finder scale. The more I know and understand up front, the better I’ll be able to take action. You can see this right in front of you here in this blog post. I’m gathering as much information as possible, organizing and sharing it in what I hope is a clear and at least somewhat concise manner (yeah, I’m a bit verbose) while being thorough enough to give you a solid understanding of what it all means.

For me, the 9-6-3-2 means the following:

  • Fact Finder (9): Specify
  • Follow Thru (6): Maintain
  • Quickstart (3): Stabilize
  • Implementer (2): Envision

Per Kolbe, this is my innate method of taking action.

Before we jump into more detail around the four modes and what my results within each mean, here are a few resources from Kathy Kolbe:

Fact Finding: Comprehensive and Complex

Fact Finder deals with how we gather information. As a 9, I am more likely to gather information in a complex and specific way–I naturally seek to become an authority or expert. Those high on the Fact Finder scale like myself have a knack for being able to gather information comprehensively and completely.

Kolbe lists my Fact Finder strength as Specify (7-10) whereas the midrange (4-6) is Explain and the low range (1-3) is Simplify.

Justifying data is what Fact Finders do, and we put it into elaborate strategies where we weigh pros and cons from multiple angles to ensure it’s thorough, precise, and complete. In other words, we don’t jump to conclusions, and we’re skeptical (or confused) if we feel there are information gaps in our knowledge.

I need information, and a lot of it, to feel I’m knowledgeable enough to have an opinion on something or take the first step in launching into a project, a venture, or even something as simple as a conversation. If I am struggling to get a project off the ground, it’s probably because I’m feeling stuck in not having adequate information to take action. I’ll need to do more research to take the next step.

This is something I see in my daily life, having the ability to look at an issue or topic from multiple angles or see it from many different vantage points.

If you come at me with a thought or opinion and a lack of knowledge or understanding of it from multiple sides, I’ll be highly skeptical that you actually know what you’re talking about. This might be a big reason (among many) why I loathe the divisiveness and polarization of modern politics.

A good example of this in action was in my last role, where I learned Tableau and completed a number of data analysis projects. As Kolbe states about those in the 7-10 range for Fact Finder:

“What you do naturally is give the most comprehensive information you’ll find in any group…justifying the data is part of your game; it’s what you do! You’ve weighted the pros and cons, looked at things in a lot of detail to be sure that what you have is so thorough and so precise…in terms of the research having been done.”

To that point, I’ll do an extensive amount of research, become an authority on the topic, yet present it in a manner that’s hopefully conducive to someone who is a Simplifier.

Follow Thru: Between Chaos and Structure

Follow Thru focuses on organization: how we sort, organize, and store information. Those with lower numbers (1-3) are adaptive, whereas the high numbers (7-10) represent sequencing and systematizing. As Koble states, “it’s from chaos to highly sequential.” I’m in the midrange, which she lists as Maintain.

For those like myself in the mid range (4-6), we are able to maintain structures, rearrange information, and both store and retrieve it. I love this: we bridge the gap between chaos and order.

As Kolbe put its, “you can structure and classify, but you can also change that system as needed and as necessary.” Finding discrepancies or new ways to organize and classify information is a strong suit, and this ability to be highly organized while having the capacity and ability to adapt and pivot is absolutely something I see in myself.

I think it shows in my desire and strength in analyzing and refining processes for greater efficiency.

Quickstart: Stabilizing the Risk & Uncertainty

Quickstart focuses on risk and uncertainty. The three buckets here are Stabilize on the low end, Modify in the midrange, and Innovate on the high end. This is what I love about Kolbe–not only does it show how you operate, it looks at each “bucket” as a strength. You might look at the lower numbers and say “that’s not good”–but there’s significant value across the full spectrum, and Quickstart demonstrates this.

Quickstart Stabilizers will take the wild innovative ideas of an Innovative Quickstart and bring them down to earth, or at least help that person minimize the risk of their innovation. In other words, we manage risk by looking at the knowns and unknowns, managing them so there are as few unknowns as possible.

This is opposite to the Innovators, who lean into risk without needing to have a clear picture of where things will end. The instinct of the Stabilizer is to take a risk and do things with unknowns, but stabilize them so the uncertainty isn’t quite as scary. We do this by analyzing the risks and the unknowns to find the constants in order to minimize the risk.

If I think about how I approach this in my day-to-day life, on one hand it’s about control, and on the other it’s about consistency.

On the control end, I might ask:

  • What can I/we control? What can’t I/we control?
  • To what degree is that uncertainty impactful on the desired outcome?

On the consistency end, I might ask:

  • What remains consistent and fixed regardless of whether or not I/we move forward?
  • What variables exist that might impact the outcome?
  • How can I/we minimize the negative impact of the variables that exist?
  • Are there opportunities in the variables that would benefit me/us as I/we move forward?

Given I’m at the upper end (3) of the Stabilizer category, I think I may have some tendencies of a low (4) Modifier. I envision the Modify behavior to allow for more risk and more innovative ideation to counterbalance the two polar ends, though.

Linda is high on the Quickstart end, meaning she’s extremely innovative and is always spouting out ideas. This is the perfect mindset for a true entrepreneur. But innovators need stabilizers to manage and minimize risk and uncertainties. I need to dig into it a bit more, but I feel this is similar to Dan Sullivan’s concept of Multipliers and Minimizers, of which any innovative and entrepreneurial business needs both.

In other words, if you’re a Quickstart entrepreneur, you need a Stabilizer to help ground you and make sure to mitigate the unknowns.

Implementer: Envisioning Outcomes

The Implementer mode looks at how we handle things in a literal sense, tackling space and tangible items, from abstract (1-3: Envision) to concrete (7-10: Demonstrate) with Restore in the middle (4-6).

As a 2 on the Implementer spectrum, I have a keen sense of imagination–I can see results in my head, picture outcomes abstractly, predict how things will play out… and I do so intuitively. I love this for myself, and it totally fits how I operate.

When I planned events while on the management team at a Harley-Davidson dealership, I’d run through contingencies in my head during the planning stage. This fit both my need to Stabilize from a Quickstart standpoint while leaning into my Envision capabilities from the Implementer action mode.

I think it’s also why I picked up Tableau and visual analytics so quickly–I could take seemingly abstract and jumbled data and construct it in my head before mapping it out in a visual manner for presentation purposes.

In my current role, when I’m mapping out a complex drip marketing campaign, I can visualize what I’m trying to create: where we start, the steps in the middle, how certain actions or goals need to be achieved to move someone from one part of a funnel or campaign into another, and so forth. It allows me to create complex campaigns with ease because I’ve already pieced together in my head what needs to happen and how it should flow.

Or, as Pres McKissack calls it, campaign wizardry.

Have You Taken the Kolbe A Index?

So, I’m curious. Have you taken the Kolbe Index? If so, what were your results, and how accurately do you think they assessed your instinctive strengths? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

If you haven’t taken the assessment yet, you can do so on the Kolbe website. There is a nominal cost to take the Kolbe Index, but if you’re like me and geek out on self-exploration and learning how you tick and why, it’s more than worth it!

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