Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument - Overview

By Sean Stevenson – Latest Revision January 16th, 2021

What Is The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument?

The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (or HBDI, for short) is a four-quadrant system used to characterize the thought processes of an individual.  It was developed by William Herrman, who was previously a leading management educator at General Electric’s Corotonville, N.Y facility.

The HBDI system represents a means of measuring an individuals’ cognitive model.  This offers deep insights into the psychological tendencies and thought patterns of people.  Moreover, it can even be applied to groups or teams.  

Specifically, it allows for people’s decision-making process to be fully analyzed and understood.  The ways in which people plan, use logic, organize themselves, or even how they act during interpersonal exchanges, can all be traced back to the HBDI model.

Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

Inherent benefits of understanding a person or a team’s thought process are monumental in a business setting.  Empowering productivity by optimizing collaborative efforts is just one of the innate advantages offered by the HBDI system.  This allows easy alignment of ideas, processes, and even deeper learning.

As a form of cognitive science, HBDI is ground-breaking in its practical uses.  It has demonstrated that each of our brains are wired to have certain portions act dominantly over the others, based on our tendencies as individuals.  The two halves of our brain (both left and right) have been effectively divided into the four quadrants representative of the HBDI model.  Each quadrant utilizes a different method of learning and acting upon information. 

In essence, every individual thinks and acts differently based on the thinking patterns that are most dominant within their brain.  Engaging effectively with any individual, therefore, is a matter of understanding how they perceive and act, relative to their own deeper thought process.


A company uses HBDI as a tool to develop better synergy amongst its teams.  They note how it amplifies teamwork, promotes professional relationships, and allows for higher rates of productivity.

The reason behind all of this?  The HBDI model promotes understanding.  A team’s cognitive abilities and tendencies become apparent, allowing for their strengths to be leveraged more effectively.

As a corollary, an employee who is shown by the HBDI model to excel at organizing the efforts of others may be given a managerial position.  Whereas an employee who has intuitive abilities in developing interpersonal relationships with coworkers and understanding their needs, may be offered a position in human resources.

By focusing on the cognitive strengths of its employees, an organization can better leverage existing resources and strengths.  This promotes the general aim and mission of any organization, which is why the HBDI model has gained such positive notoriety in business.

Key Takeaways

  • HBDI stands for Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument
  • The HBDI model is used to develop and analyze a deeper understanding of the way people think
  • How each of us acts in the workplace can be directly traced back to the HBDI model
  • HBDI is made up of four distinct “quadrants” which cover different cognitive tendencies
  • The benefits of HBDI in business are staggering, with some studies claiming a 66% increase in productivity

Defining The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

The acronym “HBDI” has a deeper meaning.  It also represents the creation, purpose, and characteristics of the model itself.  This stands as follows:

The “H” Stands For Herrmann

The creator of the HBDI model is one Ned Herrmann.  Herrmann both developed the concept that would become the HBDI model and created the intuitive theories that allow for its use.  To this day, Ned’s “four quadrants” are still in use.

Originally, HBDI was designed to resolve specific conundrums in General Electric’s business model.  As a management developer himself, Ned was entrusted with finding ways to make GE’s managerial branches more effective in carrying out their duties.  In short, GE wanted to build a better organization.  They needed Ned’s help to find the best way forward in accomplishing this.

Soon after developing the HBDI model, it became apparent both to Ned and GE that he had stumbled upon something uniquely advantageous.  To this day, HBDI is touted as an effective and practical model for improving workflows, along with professional interpersonal relations.

The “B” Stands For Brain

Ned Herrmann’s HBDI system was rooted in finding better ways of conducting business.  In a sense, Ned was reacting to the previous decades of research that has vastly promoted our understanding of the way our minds work. 

With both neuroscience and behavioural science on the rise, Ned seized his opportunity to contribute to a rapidly growing field of study.

What the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument does very well in its field, is to simplify the way the human brain works.  Four major -and dominant- tendencies of thought, are each represented in the four quadrants of the HBDI model. 

This easily referenced and simple model helps many organizations to understand the way their people think.  It is ground-breaking in the regard that anyone can quickly use it to better manage and develop their existing resources (i.e.: Their people and projects).

The “D” Stands For Dominance

Given how our brains seem to favour certain behavioural tendencies, it has become apparent that we all have specific cognitive preferences.  Whether we actually have full control over our development is a matter of some controversy and debate.  Yet what is certain, is that we can understand our minds and their prowess better than ever before.

As we mature, each of us develop our own uniquely dominant patterns of thought.  What the HBDI excels at measuring and defining, are the recurrent ways in which we act, based on our cognitive tendencies.

The “I” Stands For Instrument

As this model was specifically designed to be useful in business, it is often referred to as an instrument. 

Developing a practical application that can readily define human behaviour, has given many people a deeper insight into the nature of our own existence.

For the purposes of a business setting, there can be no better instrument than a model like the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument, which allows for better management and higher levels of productivity.

Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

The Four Quadrants

The acronym “HBDI” has a deeper meaning.  It also represents the creation, purpose, and characteristics of the model itself.  This stands as follows:

Blue – Also Known As “A” Quadrant

The “Blue” designation of the brain within the four quadrants, is also know as the left cerebral hemisphere.  This portion of our brain is assigned the analytical side of our thought process.

Those who fall into this category tend to prefer analysis, theory, logic, and quantification.  They tend to be deeply invested in their attention to detail, with a penchant need for data to reinforce their ideas.

An excellent assignment within an organization for a “blue” designated thinker, would be an accountant, engineer, or process technician.  These individuals thrive on data and analysis, making them stalwart stewards of important corporate information.

A well-known individual who falls into this category, is Bill Gates.  Recognized for his incredible capacity to digest and utilize vast quantities of information, the founder of Microsoft is no stranger to big data.

Green – Also Known As “B” Quadrant

This portion of the brain is also known as the left limbic system.  It deals with sequences, evaluation, practice, and organization.

Individuals who fall into this “yellow” category of thought processing tend to have strong skills at organizing plans and remaining heavily invested in the details of their approach. 

An excellent assignment for a green would a managerial position (particularly a project manager).  Owing to this thought process being heavily rooted in a desire for coherency and planning, they tend to make excellent stewards of corporate progress.

A famous green is Steve Jobs, who many might immediately point out was the mastermind behind Apple’s success.  Having saved the company from insolvency, Steve would go on to release the iPhone, the iMac, and many other memorable consumer-favorites in the technology sector.

Red – Also Known As “C” Quadrant

Known as the right limbic system, this portion of our brain is associated with internalizing, sharing, communication, and social involvement. 

“Red” thinkers tend to have deep sensibilities, empathy, and general feelings towards others.  They make excellent communicators and tend to be socially popular.

An excellent assignment for a red thinker would be human resources, a leadership role, or a public speaker of some kind.  Many politicians are believed to fall into this category.  Due to their excellent communication skills and ability to easily build interpersonal relationships, they can also excel at selling products.

A well-known red thinker is Justin Trudeau.  He is easily one of the most charismatic politicians to hold office in recent years.  It has been documented in Canada and other nations, as to how readily he can stir a crowd.  Moreover, he seems to run in many circles involving celebrities, investors, and high-profile businesspeople.

Yellow – Also Known As “D” Quadrant

The right cerebral hemisphere of our brain is devoted to discovery, conceptualization, exploration, and the synthesis of ideas.

“Yellow” thinkers are the visionaries.  They tend to develop unique ideas and concepts using imaginative properties, which they then apply to the real world.

An excellent assignment for a yellow thought processor would be a designation as a scientist or an inventor.  Thanks to their excellence in developing new concepts, ideas, and products, a yellow can excel in any position that requires innovation.

An excellent example of a yellow would be Albert Einstein.  Most famous for his theory of relativity, Einstein was clearly a brilliant mind.  He often remarked how he thought of himself as “a beam of light travelling through the universe,” which helped him birth his incredible scientific concepts as he used his imaginative process.

Understanding The Four Quadrants

It must be noted that the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument is effective at listing our cognitive preferences.  However, the extent of our brain’s actual dominance in any one of these four quadrants can vary greatly.

At times, how dominant your mind is in any area, can be entirely dependent on the situation at hand.  You may be mentally focused in just one area, or perhaps you are a mixture of each.

Every person can utilize each quadrant.  What is beyond dispute, is that we each have our own unique cognitive process and our own preferences about how we utilize information as it is learned.

Using The Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument

Individuals who make use of the HBDI model tend to immediately understand why their own cognitive process operates the way it does.  They can easily pick up on the core ideas and make better use of their own abilities as a result.

Due to its highly actionable content, any organization can better leverage its workforce to new or innovative tasks.  The applications are nearly limitless.

What also serves the model well, is that it is entirely devoid of any judgement or bias.  It simply provides the capacity for individuals and teams to better develop themselves.  Owing to this, an enterprising organization can align itself with its own goals by making better use of the skills its employees have available.

The positivity associated with understanding fundamentals about our nature can pay huge dividends in any workplace culture.  This process is often recalled fondly by participants and is designed to promote deeper understanding.

Where it is used for executive or employee coaching, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument is a highly effective model for furthering the aims of any business.

How To Present The Model To Your Organization

1. Call A Meeting:

Getting everyone together in the boardroom, or another easily accessible location, is a prime way to kick-off your HBDI presentation. Try to include important facts and benefits.  Make it clear that there is no right or wrong answers.  Perhaps most importantly, is striving to illustrate the importance of each quadrant, as it relates to your larger corporate picture.  In this way, you will be reinforcing the positive traits of the model, while also getting your people excited about the prospect of better leveraging your collective skills.

2. Respond Based On Their Cognitive Colour:

Whether via email or in person, try to leverage your knowledge of the Herrmann Brain Dominance Model.  Using it to better understand the tendencies of others has been scientifically proven to improve relationships.  To accomplish this, all you need to do is understand a person’s comfort zone, where they excel, and how you can best accommodate them.  Not only will this improve your relationships, but you’ll be better at getting things done as a group.

3. Problem-Solving

When trying to resolve issues as they occur in your organization, leverage each individual’s abilities based on their strengths.  If you need a manager, its time for a green.  If you need someone to come up with innovative ideas, grab a yellow.  For interpersonal issues, get a red.  If there’s data you need analyzed in detail, your blue is the go-to.  Thinking in this way allows you to immediately make the best decision on a fact-basis.  Moreover, people will take notice and feel pride at your confidence in their abilities.

4. Development and Learning

Based on an individual’s cognitive preference, have them further develop existing skills and strengths.  Using this method, you can raise the bar for not only individuals, but entire teams.  If you find someone who is a high performer, ask if they’re interested in furthering their education.  The possibilities for developing people are limitless when you consider them carefully.

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