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We’re pleased to announce the launch of our new blog series called Data Mind. There’s a lot of talk within our profession about the importance of being evidence-based – a core value behind our practice at PCL – so we’ve invited our Consultant Psychologist and lead researcher, Dr Simon Toms, to dive into the numbers and blog about his discoveries.

To introduce the series, here’s a quick Q&A with Simon on what attracted him towards the world of business psychology research and why we should all be keeping an eye on the evidence.


What is your role at PCL?

My primary focus is product development, research and validation, although I have working knowledge on a range of topics outside of these main spheres.


What is your background and how did you get into business psychology research?

As a PhD graduate and associate lecturer, my roots are very much in academia, but I was hesitant to launch into an academic career in such an applied discipline when I had relatively limited exposure to consultancy. PCL’s philosophy allows me to apply my academic background in a commercial setting, enabling me to translate theoretical concepts into ‘real-world’ impact.


Why are there increasing calls for our profession to be more evidence-based?

While our field may have previously been viewed by outsiders as somewhat niche and faintly mystical, its ongoing rise in popularity has unsurprisingly been mirrored by increasing calls for evidence. There is a difference between scepticism and cynicism, and whilst the latter may prove frustrating and difficult to overcome, exercising the former is an important part of any decision-making process. As advocates of our discipline, it is our responsibility to provide evidence that what we do works.


How do you see business psychology consultancies working with academia?

I think successful collaboration will result from efforts to draw on each party’s strengths. Academics will highlight their methodological rigour and transparent discussion, while consultancies will point to potentially greater interaction with organisations and their focus on real-world application. These characteristics are not contradictions and efforts should be made on both sides to encourage cross-industry working.  An example of how we’re working more closely with academia is through our newly created ‘Student Sponsorship Scheme’, where we’re supporting and promoting the research of Masters students.


What kinds of subjects will you be blogging about?

I’m looking to generate discussion on the findings of our ongoing research and product development. The possible applications of what we do are endless, so I suspect a broad and nuanced set of topics that will intrigue both psychologists and non-psychologists.


Tell us an interesting research discovery.

It is particularly fascinating when we find personality trait and behaviour trends in different industries or job roles. For example, we found that 76.7% of air traffic controllers from our sample were ‘Deliberate’ Risk Types (confident, buoyant and thorough) compared to just 13% of the general population. This suggests that certain personality types may be attracted to, and succeed in, particular professions.

Each finding like this holds a story, and discussing our analyses with non-psychologists can often provide additional meaning that breathes life into the data. This is something that few disciplines can match, and should be used to encourage inclusive discussions with individuals from a range of backgrounds.