The trait of Complexity is one of the Big Five personality factors. It is sometimes known as Openness to Experience. It is related to intellectual curiosity, openness to information, independence of thought and the ability to keep long term objectives in mind. People with high scores on this trait describe themselves as strategic, free-thinking, dogged, imaginative, unconventional and intellectual. They enjoy broad intellectual engagement. They tend to generate many ideas. People with low scores usually have more focused interests. They are usually more hands-on and have little inclination towards intellectual or academic issues. They are more practical, tactical and applied. Below are the sub factors for this broad personality dimension.

  • Strategic. People with high scores here are described as unflagging, dogged, unwavering, staunch, non-conforming and unconventional.
  • Planful. High scores here are indicative of people who are seen as intellectual, reflective, thinking-oriented, methodical, precise, analytical and deliberate.
  • Divergent Thinking. People with high scores here are perceived as creative, imaginative, inventive, visionary, free-thinking, innovative, resourceful, intuitive, curious and insightful.

No personality trait is inherently positive or negative. There are potential upsides and downsides to scores at any point along the spectrum. The further towards the high or low endpoints, the more pronounced and observable the behaviors associated with the trait will be. People with exceptionally high or low scores are likely to demonstrate both the positives and negatives associated with the trait. People with high scores on the measure of Complexity typically enjoy theoretical, abstract and complex problems. They often have broad interests and enjoy intellectual pursuits. People with low scores are likely to be more action oriented, tactical and applied in their approach. They are not inclined towards theoretical or academic exercises.

While we can’t change our personalities to any significant extent, we can learn new behaviors and skills. We can get better at most anything, given the appropriate goals and the insight, resources and motivation to achieve them. Below are some suggestions for people with high or low scores on the trait of Complexity.

High scores

  • Be careful about spending too much time with your head in the clouds. People may see you as impractical.
  • Make sure that your tendencies to gravitate towards the big picture don’t interfere with your ability to see and appreciate the tactical operational details of a new project.
  • Watch out for overthinking. People with high scores tend to see things from a variety of angles and they may not be comfortable making the quick but approximate decisions often necessary for implementation and operations.
  • Realize that your tendency to generate many ideas may overwhelm people and that you may come off as flighty, distractible or impractical.

Low scores

  • Make sure you are considering the big picture before making a quick decision.
  • Don’t give in to the pressures for immediate action. You may benefit from an occasional second opinion to help you explore other alternatives that may be more effective to help you achieve your longer-term goals.
  • Don’t automatically discount new programs and procedures that seem uncomfortable or academic on the front end.
  • Realize that you can probably benefit from continuing to broaden your perspective and stretch further towards the strategic viewpoint rather than just focusing on the practical and operational tasks in front of you.

If you have a high score on Complexity, you are likely to be seen as a valuable resource for new ideas, interesting viewpoints and diverse ways of thinking. If you have a low score, you can be a valuable resource for staying focused, maintaining traditions and keeping the team aware of what needs to be done next. High-scoring people would enjoy planning and exploring where the rail line should go in five years, while low-scoring people just want to make the trains run on time.

On average, entrepreneurs score higher on this dimension than middle managers in large organizations. However, although they may have great ideas and the energy to build new businesses, at some point they will need to hire people who are more practical, tactical and organized to help bring order to the chaos they can create.