Kathy Kolbe and Conation – Part Three of the Unwrapping the Gift of ADD series

The guest of the third session (Wednesday, April 23, 2008) in the Unwrapping the Gift of ADD Series was Kathy Kolbe.

Kathy Kolbe is a great speaker and her message was very inspiring – we are who we are, each of us is different, and we have to accept each other for who we are and not criticize one another and try to change one another to behave and think “our way.”

Kathy Kolbe is the daughter of Eldon F. Wonderlic, a pioneer in the field of Industrial Psychology (cognitive testing) and founder of Wonderlic,Inc.

During the show, Kolbe recalled how she used to ask her father about his tests and questioned the premise and the importance of cognitive (or IQ) testing. She disagreed with the idea that someone’s intelligence is the most crucial measure of a person and wondered “how how smart you are can have anything to do with what you can do in this world.” She thought there’s more to a person than intelligence and her father suggested she go and try to find it out.

So she did and founded Kolbe Corp.

And while the mission of the company her father founded is to help “thousands of employers worldwide hire and keep the best employees” the goal of her company, as stated on the “About Kolbe Corp.” page is to “provide materials, insights, and experts to help people of all ages identify their instinctive talents, develop their confidence, and use their innate abilities to succeed in a plethora of situations, from getting through school to running a business.”

Kolbe emphasized during the show that everyone was created to be perfect at something, so there are no best (and worst) among us, we just have a different way of seeing and doing things. We all can be successful and happy in life if we have the freedom to do things the way that shows our strengths. We also have to allow children to do the same.

To help figure out what drives us, what makes us tick, our Modus Operandi (MO), she “developed an instrument to measure the instinctive action and problem-solving styles of individuals. This dimension of the mind, called ‘conation,’ determines the way in which each individual might feel most comfortable and perform best in undertaking any action.”

On the Kolbe Corp. web site you can read more about the Kolbe Concept, about “conation,” and about the “Four Action Modes.”

You can also read about this idea in Kathy Kolbe’s books: The Conative Connection : Acting on Instinct published in 1997; Powered by Instinct: 5 Rules for Trusting Your Guts published in 2003; and Pure Instinct published in 2004.

When asked why we need to know about “conation,” Kolbe answered that there’s a tendency to misidentify ADHD as a cognitive issue, when in fact, it’s just the matter of Modus Operandi.

Kolbe used a term “false ADHD” when she talked about how some children whose Modus Operandi is to resist structure, to be active, and to learn by doing and touching, can be misidentified as having ADHD. (Unfortunately, neither Dr. Hallowell nor Dr. Handelman asked her what the difference between “false” and “true” ADHD is. I would have like that explained.)

While talking about schools, school rules, and curriculum Kolbe said something I found very interesting – that while 20% of general population has a tendency to insist on structure, following procedures, etc., as much as 70% of teachers are like that (because they instinctively choose a profession that is highly structured and organized).

Children whose MO is different from their teachers’ MO, suffer at school and are told that they have a problem, when in real world their tendency to multitask, be always “on the go” and skip the details for the big picture usually turns out to be a great strength.

Another interesting thing Kolbe said about schools is that it’s an environment where everyone has the same job, which has to be done the same way, every day after day, while in the real workplace there may not be much consistency, pretty much everyone does something different or in a different way and employees often need to switch gears, jump from project to project, etc.

(I ought to note that Kolbe pointed out that teachers do not intend to make suffer, they just simply may not understand that some of their pupils have a completely different way of doing and learning things, they need to have that pointed out and explained to them.)

Kolbe also talked about relationships and how a lot of conflicts are due to the fact that people don’t understand the “nature” of the other person and try to change them when in reality, that’s impossible and just makes the other person miserable.

To measure people’s Modus Operandi and help them explain what they’re good at, the company offers several “Kolbe Indexes/Instinct Assessments” which can be taken online (for a fee of course). You can see the questions and sample results without paying. If you don’t have much time to spend on the Kolbe Corp. site, at least view (listen to) the Sample Result for Youth (you have to allow pop-ups to be able to open that).

In closing, Dr. Hallowell praised the concept of “conation” saying we should “embrace it” because “it’s a tool to help in understanding who we are, it’s freeing and validating – I’m the way I should be.”

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