Why Extended DISC® outshines other Workplace Assessments


This is a bold statement, considering the myriad assessment systems available worldwide, but let’s look at just some of these from a user’s perspective.

It is impossible to review all the major systems in this document, but in Australia and New Zealand, the two most widely used methods are the Four-Quadrant Model, broadly known as DISC, and the Five-Factor Model, FFM.  Both have been promoted worldwide over many years.  

Two basic approaches to understanding behaviour

The DISC Model of Behaviour was first proposed by William Moulton Marston, an American psychologist, in his book Emotions of Normal People in 1928 (further developing Carl Jung’s concepts), and FFM was first published in 1986 as the NEO Personality Inventory, recognising four personality traits (then revised in 1992 to include an additional trait), by psychologists Paul Costa and Robert McCrae.

The Five-Factor Model of Personality (FFM) is a hierarchical organisation of personality traits described in terms of five basic dimensions: Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism and Openness to Experience.

The Four-Quadrant Model, on the other hand, recognises four clusters of personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance.

Several studies have been carried out comparing the two systems – perhaps one of the most authoritative being published by C S Jones, R Morris and N T Hartley in the American Journal of Business Education in July/August 2013

Their conclusions were that “Eight significant correlations between the Five-Factor Model and DISC Personality Assessment were uncovered. Each correlation was consistent with both theories, including the additional correlations which were found to be significant.  No significant correlations contradicted any of the hypotheses.”

They further found that “The logical conclusion is that knowledge of one of these personality assessments does provide information about the other.  An understanding of the Five-Factor Theory Model used more widely in the classroom (according to a survey of university professors) is likely to help the student understand the DISC personality assessment used more widely in industry”.

While Costa and McCrae were working on their Five-Factor model, Jukka Sappinen, an MBA from the Helsinki School of Economics, who spent his early professional years consulting clients in the use of psychological tools, was developing an advanced system of DISC.  A profound understanding of the gap between existing tools and corporate needs enabled Jukka to develop what his clients were looking for: an instrument that combines a range of valuable analyses, forming a simple, unified system that can be used to generate understandable, integrated information on an individual, team, or entire organisation.

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Damage to the DISC brand through over-simplification

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was arguably the best known four-quadrant model available at the time Extended DISC®  was being developed, but there were a raft of other DISC based products available, some having been developed as far back as the 1950s.

Most of the DISC model systems were based on Jungian theory and followed Marston’s work, while others sought to expand the concept, generally flowing from the success of MBTI.  This inevitably led to a huge growth in behavioural analyses and the DISC brand suffered from the simplicity of many products, some recognising and reporting on as few as four behavioural styles. 

The basic simplicity of some of the four quadrant model systems, and the ease of understanding the system, helped create the impression that DISC was an inferior product. 

The proponents of the Five-Factor Model do not seem to have suffered the same consequences, although there are many variations of FFM available. FFM, sometimes known by the acronym OCEAN, is accepted as being more widely used by psychologists and has therefore built a reputation as being more of a “personality assessment” used in counselling or therapy.

However, Extended DISC® Behavioural Analysis, the origin of the Extended DISC® System developed between1991 and 1994, took DISC to another level and is the starting phase in many training and consultancy projects.  It is significantly more advanced than other DISC based systems.

So how did Extended DISC® develop into a more advanced platform?

Extended DISC® was one of the first to offer a web-based solution for completing assessments and managing the whole process. 

The first web applications were launched to users in 1998, and the Extended DISC® system has been administered through the advanced FinxS® online platform since 2011.  It provides features that are unmatched by competitors and has a clear commercial focus. 

FinxS® is a multiple award-winning assessment platform that provides clients with direct access and the ability for users of Extended DISC® to manage their own and their client’s database. It also enables consultants and those trained in the system to design their own reports through access to hundreds of different types of assessments.

One of the most significant features is the access it grants to over 1800 competencies which can be used to design one’s own focused reports.  These competencies are wide ranging, covering an enormous number of possibilities.  The questionnaires are available in 80 languages and the reports are gender neutral.

The FinxS® platform also includes other non-DISC tools such as the Sales Competence Assessments (in a range of formats), Open 360 Assessments, Reasoning Analysis and other products developed by Extended DISC® franchisees worldwide.


Apart from the FinxS® Online Platform, what features give Extended DISC® the edge?

Extended DISC® has continued to focus on the commercial benefits of the programme but has advantages over other DISC based systems also. 

In particular:

  • Extended DISC® Behavioural Analyses go deeper into an individual’s personality, measuring something more unconscious, stable, and natural than DISC tools have been able to measure traditionally.  Virtually every other DISC based system and FFM system focus only on a person’s conscious or work behaviour, not attempting to dig deeper into an individual’s unconscious natural style – the style that requires the least energy, is the least stressful and allows a person to behave most effectively over an extended period.  Measuring unconscious behaviour is more difficult than conscious behaviour and is one of the unique features of Extended DISC® questionnaires.
  • Extended DISC® recognises and reports on 160 different behavioural styles, 40 in each of the four quadrants – far more than any other system.  FFM reports measure the percentage of the five basic traits in a person’s behaviour, while virtually every DISC based system recognises and reports on either, four, eight, or twelve combinations of styles with MBTI identifying sixteen.  There is one that graphically categorises sixty-four, but it is unclear whether they produce separate reports for each style.  There is no system that comes close to Extended DISC® in reporting on 160 different styles.  
  • Extended DISC® measures an individual’s conscious behavioural style (or their adjusted style – normally the style they prefer in their work environment) as well as their unconscious natural style, enabling a comparison between the two.  This is a feature that gives Extended DISC® the ability to recognise emotional issues, such as stress, pressure, uncertainty of role, insecurity, frustration and even a feeling of helplessness.  It provides additional insights into an individual’s behaviour and other emotions, for example feelings of inadequacy or “lost freedom” are recognisable by those trained in the system.
  • Extended DISC® questionnaires do not ask the types of simple questions that are common in other questionnaires, such as “I can be pretty forceful with my opinions”, “I love meeting new people”, “People think of me as a really good listener”.  The Extended DISC® questionnaires are difficult to “cheat” or “manipulate”, and the candidate is instructed to select, from a list of adjectives, what is “least” about them or “most” about them.

It is clearly easier for a candidate to adjust their “most” questions than it is to adjust their “least” responses.  Based on this assumption, “most” answers identify one’s conscious self, or to be more precise, one’s conscious adjustment of the unconscious self.  The “least” answers are more difficult to rationalise, and studies have shown that these answers form the closest measure of the unconscious self, although the interpretation is not based on the responses given, but on those not given.

  • Extended DISC® Behavioural Reports will not be generated by the system if they are unreliable.  Unlike other assessment systems, where reports are produced automatically, regardless of accuracy, and are not subject to the same scrutiny, Extended DISC® has the strictest internal rules for identifying and not processing results that do not carry the required reliability.
  • Extended DISC® International and FinxS® produce a two-yearly Validation Report and the last study was completed on 31 December, 2020.  It is a comprehensive document and the population of results used in the latest research was an impressive 1,005,404 for Behavioural Analysis and 96,847 for Reasoning.  It is a publication of the on-going process that aims to provide the users of Extended DISC® and FinxS® Systems with the most updated and valid instruments.

The latest version focuses on the data population collected in 2020 and compares this data with data collected on a bi-annual basis dating back to 2006 and the theoretical model behind the Extended DISC® Behavioural Analysis.  It is based on the initial validation study by the University of Oulu (in Finland).  There does not appear to be any comparable document available for other systems that measures anything like the population available in this bi-annual study.

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Relative Strengths and Weakness of FFM and DISC

There have been countless studies on the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Five-Factor Model and DISC, and most can be summed up as follows.


Five-Factor Model:


  • Generally accepted as the most studied because of its use by psychologists.
  • The focus is on five specific traits which are considered easy to understand by those trained in the system, but training is necessary to thoroughly understand the reports.
  • The individual traits measured in the reports are accepted as being precise.
  • Big Five’s measurement tends to be extremely reliable, accurate, and useful for the study of individuals; however, it is not as useful for application in relationships, communication, and business. It is best used for individual personality assessments, population-level personality studies, and counselling or therapy.


  • Some commentators have expressed the opinion that interpretation of the results can be difficult, as the reports are generally so unique that the practical application of the knowledge can be a challenge.
  • Personality traits that are extreme (a very low score or a very high score) can be viewed as a weakness, especially those high in Neuroticism, as this is associated with lower stress tolerance and a higher likelihood of depressive mood swings.
  • Extreme personality traits can become destructive. For instance, Paulhus and Williams (2002) found a connection between a low level of agreeableness and the so-called dark triad. The dark triad refers to the negative and potentially destructive personality traits of narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. 


DISC Model:


  • The Five-Factor Model emerged out of clinical observation and has been validated by scientific research.  As already mentioned, there are positive correlations between DISC and FFM.
  • The acronym DISC of the four main behavioural traits is easy to remember and understand.
  • The reports are useful for both understanding individuals and their relationships.
  • DISC reports tend to offer more general insights than FFM and therefore have more practical applications.
  • DISC tends to be a useful tool for the professional world. It is accurate and easy to understand, which has helped it become very popular among coaches, consultants, and trainers. It is most helpful in situations where utility, application, and interpersonal behavioural change are very important, like sales, marketing, leadership, and recruitment. 


  • Most DISC models have not been studied as often as other models, including FFM, and therefore generally have less research to support their concepts.
  • DISC reports tend to mostly focus on behaviour and do not attempt to identify emotional issues.  Extended DISC® is the exception.
  • There is a much greater range of DISC products available, meaning that the standard is far from consistent.  In fact, many are very simple, and some are even available at no cost!

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Extended DISC® accuracy is guaranteed and is well validated

Finally, the Extended DISC® and FinxS® bi-annual validation study provides users with the comfort of knowing that there is an ongoing process in place to monitor and analyse reports on a worldwide basis.  The purpose of this report is to ensure that the Extended DISC® Behavioural Analysis remains a reliable and valid tool.

The study, as already mentioned, is collected from a global population of 1,005,404 persons representing 77 native languages in 60 different countries.  Over the last year additional languages have been added and will be included in the next study.

The report (107 pages…) compares the global percentage mix of the styles on an annual basis by age, gender, language, and geographic region together with a range of validation statistics.  It addresses the test-retest validation and identifies the percentage of unreliable (invalid profiles) by country (= 3.89% worldwide) and compares internal consistency.  It measures construct validity and internal consistency using Cronbach’s alpha for each language and compares the global measure on a bi-annual basis to ensure consistency. The Extended DISC® Behavioural Analysis has very high Cronbach’s alpha scores in all languages (D=.0.85, I= 0.82, S= 0.84 and C = 0.79).

It even identifies stress within countries and arrives at a National Stress Indicator for each country. It gives each society a lot to think about and its purpose is to raise discussion within the country. It clearly reflects not only the stress in work situations but also the general attitude towards work and individualism.


 What does this mean for those who use Extended DISC® products?

In summary, users of Extended DISC® can be assured that:

  • The FinxS® Online Platform provides them with access to a large selection of competencies that are available for inclusion in their own reports, that the platform enables them to format and select content to design their own branded reports, and that it provides them with the ability to administer their own database and much more.
  • Extended DISC® Behavioural Reports go deeper into an individual’s natural unconscious behaviour and therefore identify traits that might not otherwise be obvious, ensuring a more accurate analysis.
  • The depth of reporting, due to the large number of styles identified, improves the accuracy of the reporting. 
  • The ability to identify emotional issues provides users with vital information that might otherwise not be recognised.
  • The unique construction of the behavioural questionnaire makes it difficult to “cheat”, providing additional quality control.
  • The on-going validation process and the publication of the bi-annual Validation Report provides users with the knowledge that the Extended DISC® and FinxS® Systems produce updated and valid instruments. 

HR Profiling Solutions (formerly Extended DISC® Australasia) was the second international franchisee appointed by Extended DISC® International, Finland in 1999, and has been working with the Extended DISC® system for over 23 years.  They are therefore well qualified to provide expert advice on the range of Extended DISC® and FinxS® products.  For further information contact info@hrprofiling.com

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