Using FIRO-B in Competitive Intelligence

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Executive Summary

There are several different analytical profiling techniques used in competitive intelligence projects that provide insight into personal characteristics or traits of individuals, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), FIRO-B, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and Need for Power, Affection or Achievement Analysis. In addition, functional or biographical profiling can be completed which is based more on facts such as one’s education, career history, community association memberships, etc.

FIRO-B, the Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation – Behaviour test has been offered through CPP for more than 40 years, and is designed to provide insights into one’s needs or wants of inclusion, control and affection. FIRO-B is commonly used in team development, conflict management, leadership and coaching and retention. [1] The test can be very useful when assessing leadership profiles within an organization as part of a Competitive Intelligence project to determine likely behaviours of control, affection and inclusion that the leader is likely to exhibit and/or seek. FIRO-B is often used as a compliment to other types of personality profiling tests, like the MBTI, CPI and TKI, and offers some advantages and disadvantages.

There is an abundant amount of information on the FIRO-B assessment, along with the FIRO theory behind the test. A list of additional resources can be found in the last section of this paper.

CPP, Inc

CPP, Inc (formerly Consulting Psychologists Press) was founded in 1956 and is described on their website as a “leading publisher and provider of innovative products and services for professionals focused on meeting individual and organizational development needs”. [2] CPP owns other globally recognized brands of personality testing, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), California Psychological Inventory (CPI). CPI-260, Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) and the Strong Interest Inventory. [3] These products help companies in assessing issues regarding team development, career exploration, conflict management, leadership & coaching, selection and retention. [4] Each test assists in analyzing one or more of these key areas and often tests are used in combination to enhance the usefulness of the test results.

CPP’s vision is to facilitate change in individuals in order to help them achieve their goals; while their mission indicates that they want to be the leading provider of products “that promote healthy human development to inform, inspire, and empower individuals and organizations worldwide.” [5]

What is FIRO-B?

The FIRO-B assessment is based on the FIRO theory of interpersonal relations developed in 1958 by Will Schutz, where FIRO theory covers behaviour, feelings and self-concept. FIRO-B focuses on the behaviour interpersonal area, in which most human interaction can be explained by three dimensions of interpersonal relations – Inclusion, Control and Affection[6] and whether these needs are expressed or wanted. The following gives a brief description of each aspect of interpersonal behaviour. [7]

Expressed (E): how much the person wants to initiate the action

Wanted (W): how much the person wants to be the recipient of the action or wants others to initiate the action

Inclusion (I): being recognized, feeling a sense of belonging, participating in actions Control (C): having influence and responsibility and leading others

Affection (A): achieving closeness, warmth and showing sensitivity


The FIRO-B assessment is a 54 question, self-administered test that is designed to identify an individual’s personal needs for inclusion, control and affection and how these needs influence a person’s behaviour towards others. The test results are used in organizational exercises such as, team building and team development, individual development and conflict resolution, by shedding light on issues such as compatibility, tension, openness, trust, decision-making, self-awareness, interpersonal effectiveness, leadership style, personal growth, causes of conflict and how to manage conflict effectively.[8]

The FIRO-B assessment is known to be an ideal method for individuals to gain self-awareness, since the test results will indicate which environments a person in more likely to succeed in and also will provide insight into how one is perceived by others. [9]

Frequent Uses

Team Building

The FIRO-B is commonly used in organizational team building or team development since the personal profile provided by the test may indicate how one’s need for inclusion, affection and control contributes to or detracts from the productivity of the team. [10]

The results of the FIRO-B assessment are likely to identify causes of compatibility or tension based on the interpersonal needs of the team members. In addition, the test results may be used to improve communication, trust, and decision-making. The FIRO-B evaluation is often used to develop individual personal growth through self-awareness and identify leadership style and interpersonal effectiveness. Organizations will often aid in this process through coaching or career development. [11]

Conflict Management

FIRO-B can also be an effective tool in conflict resolution due to the clarification provided on one’s personal characteristics and preferences in interpersonal relations. This information can help to improve communication, reduce stress, and embrace individual differences, [12] by identifying causes of conflict and determining how to effectively manage the sources of conflict[13] related to interpersonal needs.


FIRO-B is often used by organizations to determine what stimulates certain behaviours in their employees and, in turn, the organization can use this information to ensure employees are armed with the knowledge they need to ensure they feel satisfied, and enriched in their job. [14]

Types of Questions

The questionnaire begins by asking about the background of the test taker. This includes gender, age, highest level of education, major, level of current position, how many years in the general line of work, how satisfied with line of work and current job, how likely to leave your current job within the next year, industry, sector, area of general line of work and job category. Each question provides likert scale[15] answers ranging from “very satisfied” to “very dissatisfied” for example, or a multiple choice answers to select job category, as an example. [16]

The main section of the assessment contains 54 questions in which the respondent selects one of the following answers: never, rarely, occasionally, sometimes, often or usually. It is common for the same question to be asked more than once in the test. Examples of the questions asked are[17] :

  • I try to have close relationships with people.
  • I let other people strongly influence my actions.
  • I am easily led by people. I like people to invite me to participate in their activities.
  • I try to be the dominant person when I am with people.
  • I try to have other people do things the way I want them done.
  • I like people to act friendly toward me.

The last part of the questionnaire is 60 questions regarding the test takers preferences at work and questions about their personal life. The categories of questions are: 1) organization preferences, 2) work activities, 3) interest in activities, 4) yourself at work, level of satisfaction (with intimate relationships, friendships and family relationships), 5) amount of time spent on activities (personal), 6) coping strategies, and 7) importance in your life (ex: health, financial security, achievement, education, prestige). Again, a 5 point scale is provided for each set of questions with regards to strongly like to strongly dislike, strongly unlike me to strongly like me, very dissatisfied to very satisfied, very infrequently to very frequently and very unimportant to very important. One example in each category is listed below with the response theme in parenthesis: [18]

  • Organization: allows me to work as part of a team. (like/dislike)
  • Work Activities: helping other, teaching, counselling. (like/dislike)
  • Other Activities: Sharing success as part of a team (like/dislike)
  • Yourself at work: Prefer working along rather than committees (unlike me/like me)
  • Level of satisfaction: How satisfied are you with your friendships? (dissatisfied/satisfied)
  • Spend time: working out/exercising. (infrequent/frequent)
  • Coping Strategies with Stress: Think about my options. (infrequent/frequent)
  • Importance in Life: Autonomy, freedom, independence. (unimportant/important)

Outcome of the Assessment: FIRO-B Profile

The FIRO-B Profile evaluates an individual based on the six dimensions of inclusion, control and affection measured by whether the behaviour is expressed or wanted, with score ranges within each category of 0-9. The individual is also provided with a total expressed and total wanted score with a range of 0-27 and a total inclusion, total control and total affection score with a range of 0-18. The Overall score is a total of the six dimensions and is based on a range of 0-54. Within each score range on the 12 block grid, an assessment of high, medium or low for that box is provided along with the score. The FIRO-B assessment matrix is as follow: [19]

Table 1.GIF

An individual can benefit from the results of the FIRO-B Profile in that the results assist in understanding their interpersonal needs. Once a person is aware of their expressed and wanted needs for Inclusion, Control and Affection, they can assess: a) the match between their needs and their current job, b) any development opportunities or career/job changes, c) the impressions they make on others due to their behaviours, and/or d) potential opportunities to portray interpersonal needs. [20]

Outcome of the Assessment: Interpretive Report for Organizations

The example provided on the CPP website is a twelve page narrative designed to help organizations understand the behaviours of their employees and the impact those behaviours may have on an employee’s actions, job satisfaction, productivity and goal achievement. CPP recommends using the FIRO-B report to aid in career development, improve job satisfaction, increase team effectiveness and assess leadership style. This comprehensive report provides an interpretation of the FIRO-B test results in several areas.[21]

Interpretation of FIRO-B Results

Your Individual Needs: This section of the report provides an indication of low, medium or high range in each of the six characteristics -Expressed Inclusion (eI) , Wanted Inclusion (wI), Expressed Control (eC), Wanted Control (wC), Expressed Affection (eA), and Wanted Affection (wA), along with an explanation in each category of what the score results may indicate. The following diagram provides a definition for each of the six categories as defined by CPP[22] :

Firo table 2b.GIF

Your Overall Interpersonal Needs: This is an overall score of the six categories added together. It provides a measure of the overall strength of the individual’s interpersonal needs and sheds some light on the types of work and interaction this person may enjoy.

Your Total Expressed and Total Wanted Behaviours: This section provides two score - the total wanted score and the total expressed score - indicating the initiative this individual takes in ensuring their interpersonal needs are met and how much they depend on others to satisfy their needs.

Your Total Needs: This segment of the report shows the level of importance one places on each need. The need with the “highest score is the one (they) feel most comfortable pursuing”, while “(t)he need with the lowest score is the one (they) are most willing to give up”. [23]

Patterns of Need Fulfillment: This section of the report suggests a number of potential trends in the individual’s behaviour based on the total score for that need. Examples of these identified patterns have been provided in the sample report on the CPP website, and are as follows[24] :

  • Inclusion: You pick and choose which company social events to attend.
  • Control: You can be very competitive and demand perfection from others
  • Affection: You prefer to motivate others by praise and support and are best motivated in the same way.

Your Career Development

The Career Development section of the FIRO-B Organizational Report provides commentary of the characteristics of jobs that the individual is likely to be satisfied with based on their score for each need (wanted + expressed). These characteristics may pertain to size of work group, opportunity for challenge, decision-making, climate of the organization, potential for recognition, and many others[25] .

Improving Your Team Effectiveness

Team Effectiveness can certainly be enhanced if the individual is aware of how their behaviours and other team members behaviours influence the success of the team. This section of the report poses questions for the individual to assess their effectiveness based on the six categories, previously defined (wI, eI, wA, eA, wC, eC) [26] .


Perhaps the most important section of the FIRO-B Interpretative Report for Organizations, in terms of competitive intelligence, is the insight that the FIRO-B assessment can provide on one’s leadership style. As previously discussed, a high score on an expressed need reflects one’s comfort level with being proactive to fulfill that need, and; therefore, leadership style will be deduced from the need with the highest expressed score. Therefore if one scores the highest expressed need in the Control behaviour, this can be indicative of the type of leader he/she will be. It follows that the interpersonal need with the lowest expressed score, is the one that the individual is least likely to pursue proactively, as it is less important for the individual to have this need fulfilled. If the same individual has the lowest expressed score in affection, the leadership style may be characterized by setting high goals, making decisions with little feedback or missing opportunities to recognize other team members, depending on the severity of the scores[27] . At this point it should be noted that FIRO-B is just one assessment used in personality testing. CPP recognizes, and makes clear, that all assessments have their limitations, and this particular instrument is meant to be a guide to identify behaviour patterns based on interpersonal needs, and there are certain factors that may influence the test results, e.g. respondents who feel that they should answer the questions in a certain way to appear as though they have the behaviours that are desired by their organization.

How to Use FIRO-B in Competitive Intelligence

Intelligence requests may specify a Key Intelligence Topic that requires an understanding of the leadership of a key player in the market. [28] An understanding of the leaders’ personalities (in this context, leader is not limited to the CEO or President but to the key decision-makers) is required, in turn, to support a specific company decision. The intelligence gained can be used to help predict the actions or reactions of the targeted leadership. In this respect, personality profiling can have a relatively wide range of applications in competitive intelligence. At one level, users of intelligence may want to have an idea as to how to negotiate significant contracts with key suppliers or customers based on the personalities of counterparts. On another level, companies may use intelligence on the personalities of key executives of competitors to determine their future moves, given changing circumstances, with respect to market share, prices or new products. Similarly, some insight is required to predict how the leadership of a target company would react to the prospect of a merger or acquisition. And, importantly, should a merger, acquisition, or joint venture take place, it is vital to understand how the leaders of the target company would function as a team, or in subordinate roles, to the leaders of the company undertaking the move.

Profiling personalities may combine two key elements: a biographical history of the subject and a psychological assessment. [29] The biographical analysis of the leader(s) may cover several areas, including: an evaluation of the functional background of top management (giving clues as to their business orientation based on formal training, e.g.: finance, marketing or operations), other businesses in which they have worked, major events in their lifetime that could affect their perspectives, and types of strategies that have been successful for them in the past. [30] In conjunction with a biographical analysis, the psychological assessment (according to Marta Weber, in her paper, Profiling for Leadership Analysis) “adds dimension, explains observable behaviours, fills the gaps in knowledge …and confirms (or revises) the picture that has emerged.” [31]

A number of techniques can be used to perform a psychological assessment. However, in the case of competitive intelligence, an assessment must be performed remotely through interviews with sources familiar with the target individual. As such, it is best to use an established self-reporting instrument designed to assess personalities. Self-reporting instruments, such as FIRO-B, consist of a series of standard questions that an individual would normally answer themselves. These questions, as Weber states, can be easily adapted to “remote profiling” and “framed in user-friendly terms that can be inserted into conversation.” [32] The answers, gleaned from the interviews, can then be entered by the intelligence team into the test.

FIRO-B will provide the user with a number of insights to the target personality. In addition, the tool can be used to look for extreme behaviour in the areas of inclusion, control, and affection. John Olmstead, in his 2003 dissertation, refers to Schutz, the author of the FIRO-B. He states that “for each area of interpersonal need the following three types of behavior would be evident: (1) deficient, (2) excessive, (3) ideal, and (4) pathological.” [33] A behaviour considered deficient would indicate an individual who was not trying to directly satisfy a need. Excessive, however, indicated an individual who was constantly trying to satisfy a need. And ideal indicated someone who had satisfied their need. Olmstead says that the “ideal type represents, on the FIRO-B, the balance and flexibility that has been suggested as recommended behavioral characteristics in management and leadership.” [34]

Based on the results of the FIRO-B, intelligence teams can attempt to predict the actions of a target personality according to his or her type of behaviour. For example, a leader considered deficient may not react to a loss of market share. On the other hand, an excessive or pathological personality may take irrational measures to achieve a certain goal, for example, geographic expansion.

FIRO-B Relative to other Personality Profiling Tools

As discussed in the above sections, FIRO-B measures an individual’s characteristics, compatibility, and behaviour toward other people. But its advantage is that it “examines relationship styles as opposed to just individual characteristics” [35] and its applications range from team development to managing conflict and identifying leadership styles. From the perspective of competitive intelligence it is a relatively complete tool although may not necessarily be the best fit in some situations. However, even in these circumstances it can be considered a complementary tool.

The California Psychological Inventory (CPI), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) are a few of a number tools that can be employed in competitive intelligence. They each have the advantage of being “self-reporting” which means that there need not be a professional administering the test. Intelligence teams can determine the questions beforehand, couch them in interviews and then perform the test “on behalf” of the target. Although there would be some uncertainty about accuracy, the remote test would remove the bias present when an individual takes the test and answers according to how they wish to be perceived. The tests may all have the disadvantage of being geared towards a North American market, and therefore reflective of cultures and norms specific to that area, so some caution would be appropriate when using these tools in an international context.

The CPI, TKI, and MBTI instruments are discussed briefly below as well as some of their advantages and disadvantages.


The California Psychological Inventory, or CPI, is a test made up of 434 true false questions that yields 18 scales that are broken down into four classes. The classes measure characteristics such as self-assurance, responsibility, intellectual efficiency and interest modes. [36] The web site adds that it can be used to assess “social expertise and interpersonal style; maturity, normative orientation, and values; achievement orientation; and personal interest styles.” [37]

While the tool appears to be favoured for selection and recruitment it can also be used to assess leadership and professional and personal styles. [38] This tool may be useful for intelligence needed to understand the compatibility of leaders in the case of a merger or acquisition. The number of questions, however, may pose a threat to the ability to collect the requisite information to complete the test.


The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is designed to measure a person's behaviour in conflict situations. An individual's behaviour is measured along two dimensions: (1) assertiveness, and (2) cooperativeness. [39] According to Kilmann, the individual can be classified as per their predisposition for responding to conflict. They are either: Competing, Accommodating, Avoiding, Collaborating, or Compromising. The instrument can be applied to determine the best manner to respond to conflict situations.

TKI is widely used and relatively quick to complete but may come up short when used internationally or with minority groups. [40] Intelligence teams may use this tool, as well as FIRO-B, when preparing for negotiations or bargaining with key suppliers and customers. FIRO-B is not designed to deal with conflict management but in the case of bargaining, TKI will predict the response while FIRO-B will determine the need.

Myers Briggs (MBTI)

MBTI is used to classify individuals into one of 16 personality types. Each personality type is the result of one of the 16 possible combinations derived from four pairs of preferences. [41] The four pairs of preferences are: Extraverted versus Introverted, Sensing versus Intuitive, Thinking versus Feeling, and Judging versus Perceiving. [42] The MBTI is essentially a measure of the preferred cognitive processes of an individual. [43] These are measured through 93 forced-choice questions. [44] The results provide the user with the individual’s strengths and challenges.

According to Weber, the results can be used to gain insights “into the basic operational habits of the subject.” [45] The instrument also has the advantage of being widely used and can be comparable with other data. This is an accepted tool; however, it is worth mentioning that the validity of the test (its lack of basis in scientific studies) and its reliability[46] (different results when retested) should be taken into consideration.


FIRO-B was widely used prior to the adoption of MBTI by the business community. [47] But while MBTI measures innate “behavioural preferences in four dimensions, providing individual Type profiles”, FIRO-B is situational and measures “the emotional drivers behind behaviour in certain situations and interactions.” [48] That said, FIRO-B and MBTI results have been found to be positively correlated.[49] According to Olmstead “extraversion and introversion on the MBTI were related to expressed and wanted inclusion on the FIRO-B” [50] and “extraversion was related to higher scores on all dimensions of the FIRO-B except wanted control.”

The two profiling tools can be used independently of each other but many sources indicate that they are used together. FIRO-B has even been described as a “brilliant partner” [51] and “companion assessment” [52] to the MBTI. Olmstead, quoting Fitzgerald and Kirby, writes that “[both] instruments tap key aspects of a person’s personality and therefore provide helpful information to leaders about patterns over a variety of activities such as communication, decision making, interpersonal relations, and group dynamics.” [53] Indeed, the Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP) offers a Leadership Report which is based on responses to both the FIRO-B and MBTI assessments. As per CPP, the distinctive elements of each instrument provide a view of a leader’s personality through different windows. [54]

When applicable, the Leadership report could be of particular value to intelligence teams. The report provides an interpretive overview of the results from both the FIRO-B and MBTI instruments. It also describes leadership styles in the context of interpersonal relationships, teams, and organizational culture. [55] Based on the sample report provided by CPP, users of intelligence could employ the report to gain an understanding of the target individual’s leadership style. For example, what roles the target will take on in an organization, how he/she will work on a team, what they expect from other leaders, his/her bases of power and influence, how he/she will influence organizational culture, and how he/she deals with change and stress. [56]

How / Where can one Learn More About FIRO-B?

The following is a list of resources that have been recommended by other researchers to assist in understanding FIRO-B, that were not covered in this paper:

  • Waterman, Judith and Jenny Rodgers. Introduction to the FIRO-B (Fourth Edition) (2000)
  • Schnell, Eugene R & Allen Hammer. Introduction to the FIRO-B in Organizations (1997)
  • Schnell, Eugene R. Participating in Teams: Using Your FIRO-B Results to Improve Interpersonal Effectiveness (2000)
  • Schutz, Will. Profound Simplicity (Fourth Edition) (1989)
  • Ryan, Leo R. Clinical Interpretation of the FIRO-B (1977)
  • Schnell, E & Hammer, A. Integrating the FIRO-B with the MBTI: Relationships, case examples, and interpretation strategies in Developing Leaders (1997)
  • Schutz, W.C. FIRO: A Three Dimensional Theory of Interpersonal Behaviour (1958)
  • Thompson, H. FIRO Element B and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator correlations (2000)


  1. CPP Company Website:
  2. CPP Company Website:
  3. CPP Company Website:
  4. CPP Company Website:
  5. CPP Company Website:
  6. Thompson, Henry (Dick), FIRO Element B & Psychology Type: Part I (2000)
  7. JS Evans Consulting Inc:
  8. OPP Company Website:
  9. Ashridge Business School Website:
  10. CPP Company Website:
  11. OPP Company Website:
  12. CPP Company Website:
  13. OPP Company Website:
  14. CPP Company Website:
  15. Likert-scale: The respondents must indicate how closely their feelings match the question or statement on a rating scale. The number at one end of the scale represents least agreement, (…) and the number at the other end of the scale represents most agreement (…). Encyclopaedia of Educational Technology Website:
  16. CPP Research Site:
  17. CPP Research Site:
  18. CPP Research Site:
  19. CPP Company Website:
  20. CPP Company Website:
  21. CPP Company Website:
  22. CPP Company Website:
  23. CPP Company Website: Page 6
  24. CPP Company Website: Page 7-8
  25. CPP Company Website: Page 9
  26. CPP Company Website: Page 10-11
  27. CPP Company Website: Page 12
  28. Herring, Jan P., Key Intelligence Topics: A Process to Identify and Define Intelligence Needs, Competitive Intelligence Review, Vol. 10(2) 4-14 (1999)
  29. Weber, Marta S., Profiling for Leadership Analysis, Competitive Intelligence Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 4, July-August 2004.
  30. Porter, Michael E., Competitive Strategy, The Free Press, 1980.
  31. Weber, Marta S., Profiling for Leadership Analysis, Competitive Intelligence Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 4, July-August 2004.
  32. Weber, Marta S., Profiling for Leadership Analysis, Competitive Intelligence Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 4, July-August 2004.
  33., p45
  34., p47
  45. Weber, Marta S., Profiling for Leadership Analysis, Competitive Intelligence Magazine, Vol. 7, No. 4, July-August 2004.
  50., p45
  53., p45
  54. , p1
  55. , p1


Under the direction of Dr. J. Calof

Krissy MacDonald

2007; Master of Business and Administration (MBA) - University of Ottawa, Canada

Tim Steed

2007; Master of Business and Administration (MBA) - University of Ottawa, Canada