UCL School of Management

Research seminar

Personal Projects and Free Traits: Organisational Behaviour Reconsidered


Brian Little, University of Cambridge


Thursday, 21 February 2013

I present the case for personal projects analysis (PPA) as a methodology and theoretical perspective on persons in organisations. Personal projects are extended sets of personally salient action ranging from “put out the cat, quickly” to “transform Western thought, slowly.” PPA methodology assesses Individual differences in the content, appraisal and dynamics of personal project pursuit. Indices of project meaning, manageability, social connection, and affect have substantial links with measures of effective functioning including creativity, productivity and well-being.

One of the consequences of adopting a project analytic approach to organisational behaviour is that it provides a new way of looking at the impact of personality traits. In contrast with the traditional focus on relatively fixed traits, we have studied “free traits” which are strategic enactments intended to advance a core personal project. A biologically introverted leader, for example, may frequently engage in the free trait of “pseudo-extraversion” in order to advance the project of energizing the management team. Such counter-dispositional behaviour can advance a person’s core projects and those of the group. But such acting out of character, if protracted, poses risks of burnout out and can bring us to our knees.

Open to
PhD Programme
Last updated Wednesday, 16 December 2015