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It’s all in the Totem – Experienced ISPI™ users forecast team innovation at a glance

Innovating teams can be more effective when formed with the ISPI.

What makes the Innovation Strengths Preference Indicator® more effective than some other assessments are, its ease of recognition, understanding, and application. Users get this with the patented “Totem” – a graphical report on individuals or groups that gives an instant depiction of their innovation preferences, to forecast how a person or team may perform.


Bring a dozen or so of our ISPI™ clients into a room and you’ll hear a lively conversation in a uniquely shared language about team interaction, individual personalities, effectiveness, and how to achieve innovation success. In our most recent “ISPI Applications for Certified Practitioners” virtual session, we met with corporate learning leaders and independent leadership consultants. The Zoom meeting featured an exercise to refresh everyone’s skills – including our own – in using it.

It all centered around our nifty tool ­– the “Totem.” The color-coded totems work like a dashboard of team personalities in the hands of certified ISPI users.

About Totems

The ISPI delivers complex details about an individual’s mindset and problem-solving style through what we call modifiers. Modifiers have a significant impact on how a person will show up on an innovation team. The depth and complexity that the ISPI™ derives from the modifiers includes how a person interacts with control – one of the most impactful of the modifiers, as well as how relational they are or where they go to recharge their energy. All the modifiers help us understand the whole, and sometimes contradictory, person we each are. The totem clarifies and simplifies the modifier results after completing the assessment.

With ISPI™ Totems you can fully understand all the information that they reveal. Building a group of Totems of close colleagues or friends sheds light not only on those people and their interpersonal relationship style, but also on the intricacies of being human. It is this that makes innovation work challenging, complex – and for those who are drawn to it – eminently satisfying.

A Revealing Exercise In our recent Zoom meeting, we used the example of an actual ISPI engagement from an anonymous defense client as our case study and divided everyone into three small groups. Each group was given an ISPI totem of aggregate data for a different real-life team.

It’s always amazing to see how quickly totems can be read to reliably forecast outcomes of groups that are expected to deliver innovative solutions in real world exercises.

Our exercise was: read the totem, discuss as a group, and then present the forecasted outcomes for the case study team.

After 30-minute group sessions, the clusters returned and presented their assessment of their assigned team’s outcomes – Will the team be more incremental, expansionary, or revolutionary? Will it get mired in granular details or lost in wild blue-sky hypotheticals? Or will the team mesh like a Swiss watch and deliver marketable solutions?

And our certified practitioners dependably delivered. Each participant was able to assess the innovation approach for their case study teams, based entirely on reading the totem.

ISPI users can precisely forecast how teams will work, all from one totem. We get responses ranging from…

“They’re heavy on mid-pioneer. They need to rely on their one builder more to make the solution workable within a budget.”


“We figured there would be some workable outcomes, but nothing especially revolutionary, because the group is builder focused.”

It’s a system that’s easy to learn and retain and easy to apply for learning engagements with any organization.

What’s most rewarding for us is seeing the enthusiasm among the users – like having a series of resumes or CVs, totems can be explored and read at-a-glance so each person can make predictions. As each group presented their team’s forecasts, our facilitators were able to verify, “Yes! That’s exactly what happened,” in the real situation.

There’s always enthusiasm among the practitioners in knowing they have a powerful tool for the success of their work, whether they’re leading a process in their own company or consulting with clients.

You too, can master the ISPI totem. To become certified with the ISPI™ or to sign up for our next ISPI Applications for Certified Practitioners session, contact Andrew Harrison.



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