skip to main content
How CliftonStrengths Compares With Insights Discovery

How CliftonStrengths Compares With Insights Discovery

by Mary Claire Evans and Adam Hickman

Coaches today face a variety of leadership assessment choices, all claiming to result in understanding and creating transformative discussions about personality traits. In this blog, we delve into the history, as well as the similarities and differences, of two widely used assessment tools -- Insights Discovery test and the CliftonStrengths assessment (formerly StrengthsFinder).

Insights Discovery Theory

Insights Discovery was founded in 1993 in Scotland by the company's current CEO, Andy Lothian, and his father, Andi Lothian. A nontraditional authority on human psychology yet a consummate entrepreneur, Andi Lothian began his career as a successful music agent, and in the 1960s he promoted and toured with the Beatles. In an interview at the Caird Hall Beatles' concert, Lothian coined the term "Beatlemania," which later appeared in headlines of major newspapers such as The Daily Mail. This helped launch his first company: Lothian Theatrical Agencies.

Lothian continued a long career as an entrepreneur -- after founding Lothian Theatrical, Lothian went on to found a financial services and insurance organization, Lothian Insurance Brokers. Finally, in 1993, he went into business with his son Andy, with whom he founded Insights Discovery. Andi claims his interest in Jung and Jacobi theory led to the new business' creation. As a side note, the Myers-Briggs personality test from mother-daughter duo Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers is also based on the conceptual theory proposed by Carl Jung.

The Insights Discovery model takes Jung and Jacobi's research and creates a four-color model in which everyone has a different intensity of each color, and, typically, one color tends to dominate their behavior. Listed below are the Insights Discovery colors:

  • Cool Blue: cautious, precise, deliberate, questioning, formal
  • Fiery Red: competitive, demanding, determined, strong-willed, purposeful
  • Earth Green: caring, encouraging, sharing, patient, relaxed
  • Sunshine Yellow: sociable, dynamic, demonstrative, enthusiastic, persuasive

These colors are meant as a memorable introduction to your behavioral styles; with more detail, an individual's report can be a combination of colors. Technically, there are 72 types available, based on different color mixes such as:

  • Blue = Observer
  • Blue + Red = Reformer
  • Red = Director
  • Red + Yellow = Motivator
  • Yellow = Inspirer
  • Yellow + Green = Helper
  • Green = Supporter
  • Green + Blue = Coordinator

Insights Discovery Test Design

The model uses four colors (blue, red, green and yellow) to represent observable behavioral patterns. These colors are measured by the Insights Discovery evaluator -- 25 rounds of 4 multiple-choice questions from 100 word pairs.

Individuals receive a personality profile upon completion of the assessment. This profile goes into detail, measures responses against each color, and, finally, determines the taker's type.

The assessment has been validated by The British Psychological Society.

CliftonStrengths Overview

The CliftonStrengths assessment is based on the research of Dr. Don Clifton and is distributed by Gallup. In 2003, the American Psychological Association honored Clifton with a presidential commendation as the Father of Strengths-Based Psychology. Gallup has been a pioneer in the strengths movement for decades, with ongoing research into workplace outcomes, individual well-being, and employee performance and engagement.

CliftonStrengths defines 34 talent themes sorted into four domains:

Haven't discovered your CliftonStrengths yet? Take the assessment and get your personalized 34 report today.

Each talent theme classifies a pattern of thinking, feeling and behaving that comes naturally to an individual. When these themes are understood and are put into meaningful action, they can create near-perfect behavior, or strengths. As Dr. Clifton wisely said, "There is something you can do better than 10,000 other people, and we just need to find what that is."

CliftonStrengths Assessment Design

The CliftonStrengths assessment consists of 177 paired statements. For each pairing, respondents have a short time interval to choose which one best describes themselves. After completing the evaluation, respondents have two report options for receiving their results: the Top 5 Strengths report, which provides detailed descriptions of an individual's Top 5 themes; or their Full 34 CliftonStrengths report, which details not only an individual's Top 5 but also ranks their remaining 29 themes. There are 278,256 possible combinations of Top 5 themes and more than 33 million different sets of Top 5 themes, so each result is unique to that respondent.

To date, the CliftonStrengths assessment is approaching 21 million individuals who understand their innate talents.

Comparing the Two Assessments

Similar to Myers-Briggs, the Insights Discovery test uses labels (in Insights Discovery's case, colors) to help individuals describe their traits. Insights Discovery's color scheme provides a way for people to remember their results. Practitioners could use both assessments as a way to coach employees by first using Insights Discovery to help the employee gain self-awareness and then CliftonStrengths as a scientific and validated instrument to aim their strengths at performance results.

For example, if an employee's results from the Insights Discovery assessment determined that they were Blue -- or, rather, an Observer -- and then, in their Full 34 CliftonStrengths assessment, Strategic and Analytical were in the employee's Top 5, the conversation would be less about getting work done and more about planning before executing. The awareness of being an Observer opens up the conversation for discussion, yet CliftonStrengths allows for a more robust coaching conversation aimed at a performance outcome.

Bottom Line

CliftonStrengths provides actionable insights and advice from the moment you receive your results. The personalized report gives you action items and insights on how to turn a talent into a strength. Insights Discovery provides broad awareness but may lack applicability -- hurting its validity, an argument of relevance and value. Insights Discovery does not provide the detailed descriptors that CliftonStrengths does. The results for the former yield a conversation about colors and traits, and lack a focus on what is right with the individual. In the Insights Discovery report, the "barriers to" list specifies items to avoid, while the CliftonStrengths Coach would discuss how to avoid the barriers but also how the employee can find a partner with the talents to help manage their weaknesses. In this way, CliftonStrengths stays true to what Don Clifton suggested years ago about studying what's right with people.

Learn more about using CliftonStrengths to help yourself and others succeed:


Mary Claire Evans' Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Individualization, Achiever, Learner, Responsibility and Connectedness.

Adam Hickman's Top 5 CliftonStrengths are Ideation, Command, Analytical, Competition and Individualization.

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030