FIRO® history and background

The history of the FIRO® instrument

Since its development in the late 1950s, the FIRO® assessment has been thoroughly researched and extensively applied to individual and team development, both inside and outside the workplace.

Over this time, the FIRO framework has been widely used in leadership development, management programs and career counselling, as well as family and relationship counselling. The FIRO-B® instrument has also been used in research on educational administration, work-group compatibility, team dynamics and criminal justice administration.

The FIRO framework was created by Harvard scientist Will Schutz following his work at the American Naval Research Laboratory where he explored his theory of interpersonal relations and needs. He first argued that, beyond a person’s core physiological needs (such as food and water), each individual has interpersonal needs that motivate behavior. Just as some people need more food than others, some need more social contact.

And, just as insufficient food causes hunger and suffering, the wrong level of social contact can cause interpersonal suffering and conflict. Schutz was focused on measuring different people’s levels of need in three defined interpersonal areas, and highlighting where these needs were not being met.

Later in his work, Schutz recognized surface behaviors as the most obvious characteristics and impressions that will be displayed in relationships. But he immediately shifted his focus to the links between these surface behaviors and an individual’s underlying values. He stated that surface behaviors are driven by a person’s self-concept. Their self-concept may not always match the surface behaviors that are displayed. Awareness of this link and any potential misalignment is a critical element in personal development.

As his research expanded, Schutz developed the original FIRO-B® questionnaire to identify the three areas of interpersonal needs that drive behavior. He named these three needs Inclusion, Control and Affection. Each need is measured in the questionnaire

The questionnaire was released in 1958. Since then it has undergone rigorous testing to ensure that the results are sufficiently robust to be used commercially.

FIRO publisher The Myers-Briggs Company developed an alternative to the FIRO-B report series, called FIRO Business®. This report series uses accessible business language to talk about the interpersonal need areas. It was developed using a large international sample, making it especially applicable for multinational use.

Learn more about FIRO-B and FIRO Business reports

See samples of the FIRO Business Profile report and the FIRO Business Leadership Report