In response to my previous posts, people have asked what I see as the issues that are currently being faced by the I/O psychology discipline. I would say there are three interconnected issues that affect our discipline. The first two are internal and the second is external. My belief is that until we get our head fully around these issues and the impact that they are having, the discipline of I/O psychology will continue to fall short of its potential.

Issue 1: The difference between mass psychology and experienced/up-to-date practitioners

The I/O practice is now a discipline for the masses. It has moved from being the domain of a select few to one of the fastest-growing disciplines in the world. With this, has come the proliferation of tools and theory (e.g., leadership) so that everyone can have an aid to making decisions on human behaviour. Practitioners of I/O psych (whether they be psychologists or HR professionals) simply do not have the time or skills to uncover unconscious drives, personal constructs, situational taxonomies, or the like. Nor do many have the inclination to continue to be well-read on a discipline that is evolving quickly on the fringes. In terms of theory, getting into the unconscious and deterministic aspects of behaviour is something that people are just not ready for!

Issue 2: The academic system is not serving us well

I have commented on this many times before but never quite so bluntly. The reality is that the system itself has inherent failings. Firstly, what academics are reinforced for is often the antithesis of quality science. This is captured in the sycophantic, agreeable, and generally passive nature of most academics. Their research in the main is hardly ever ground-breaking but follows a set of agreed rules as to what constitutes ‘science’, and so the game continues.

From a teaching perspective, there is a pervasive incentive to get degrees for everyone. This is reflected in what and how it is taught and to whom.

Issue 3: The speed at which decisions must be made

Practitioners need to make decisions quickly in the current selection environment. Recruitment is a tough job: Making $150,000 decisions ($75,000*2, just counting salary not even getting into ROI) with limited information is fundamentally hard. Cognitive tools, identification of negative behavioural tendencies, etc. provide an aid to this process. The key role that personality plays for practitioners is that it provides a semantic code by which we can make decisions under difficult circumstances. Whether it is called personality or a behavioural cluster, the reality is that practitioners need tools to aid decisions and these tools need to work within the timeframe and paradigm in which practitioners work.