What the Kolbe A Index Is – and Why We Use It

October 3, 2019 / Travis Tasset


In the late 1970’s, entrepreneur Kathy Kolbe saw that certain types of students were struggling in the standard American educational system. She decided to create tools for elementary and high school students that would help them learn more, navigate the educational system, and thrive both in school and in the future. These successful programs formed the basis for what we know today as the Kolbe ATM Index.

The Kolbe index builds on the wisdom of Ancient philosophers like Plato and Aristotle who knew that as human beings we think, feel and act in the world. The Kolbe is an assessment that measures a person’s instinctive way of doing things, which in turn informs how they will likely operate in day-to-day life. For a very basic example, we all have to interact with varying degrees of information. Some of us perform better the more information we have. Others don’t require much information at all before jumping into action. The Kolbe is based on the Kolbe Concept®, which holds that “creative instincts are the source of mental energy that drives people to take specific actions.” These creative instincts form the pattern of how an individual operates (their “modus operandi”).

The Kolbe assessment is a series of multiple-choice questions that ask what someone would most likely do, or least likely do, given a particular scenario. The answers to these questions yield the “M.O.,” which is a person’s unique set of strengths in terms of how they take action in the world. These strengths are related to the purposeful actions, reactions, and interactions we have in the world. There are no “right” or “wrong” answers, no baseline score, and no percentile. Each outcome is equally valid. This is one of the ways the Kolbe A differs from other assessment tests.

Another way in which the Kolbe is different is what it measures. It assesses your striving instincts – ones that you are innately born with. It illuminates the conative action that result from the use of your instincts and your will. It isn’t designed to assess variable factors like memory, information processing rate, or even personality type. It’s designed to reveal who you are without any other conditionals, so that you can structure your commitments and goals to align your instinctive talents with the tasks and roles you are accountable for. Years of data show that the Kolbe scores do not vary much, if any, after retesting, making it a highly reliable and useful tool.

While the Kolbe can have a range of practical applications, we’ve found it to be incredibly useful in creating teams that are optimized for success and growth. We started administering it as part of our recruitment several years ago when Nueterra Capital founder Dan Tasset astutely said, “We’re growing, and I need more people who think and act differently than I do.” The Kolbe allows us to make sure we have the right mix of instinctive talent on each team, as well as the ideal degree of difference in approach between those people. This has led to more effective teams, faster growth, and improved morale, because people are positioned to play to their strengths instead of fighting against their modus operandi. Everyone is better positioned to perform optimally when organizations take the time to assess the instinctive strengths of all team members. With this understanding organizations, teams and individuals can then utilize all twelve strengths when creating solutions. Because believe it or not – it is our differences which lead to synergy.

Do you want to know who you are?

Don’t ask. Act!

Action will delineate and define you.

~Thomas Jefferson