FIRO® history and background

The history of the FIRO instrument

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

Over this time, FIRO has become a widely used framework in leadership development, management programmes 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.

FIRO and the theory of interpersonal needs

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 behaviour. 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.

Exposing the underlying motivators that drive behaviour

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

Predicting behaviour using a practical questionnaire

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

The questionnaire was released in 1958 and over the years has undergone rigorous testing to ensure that the results are sufficiently robust to be used commercially.

Latest developments: FIRO Business

Most recently, FIRO publisher CPP has 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, and 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

FIRO

Qualify to use this tool: discover the FIRO Foundation programme

Discover another tool for individual and team development: MBTI Step I

Related case study

Learn about a teambuild for virtual workers centred on the FIRO tool

Toronto skylineRead the full DBRS case study