Are you able to answer this question? What human characteristic can be ……genetically determined…readily evident when you are young children…can be measured with confidence by teenagers…and isn’t affected by the passage of time or age? If you answered with a problem-solving approach, then give yourself an award of gold!
It’s true that everyone has an inborn way of thinking that helps us solve problems and take decisions. According to some theories, our personalities vary from high adaption to high innovation. The “Adaption-Innovation” theory was developed by Dr Michael Kirton, a noted expert in occupational research. Kirton’s theory has been the subject of more than 90 PhD dissertations as well as more than 400 research documents.
KAI which is also known as Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory is an adaptation of the theory. It’s regarded as a highly accurate psychometric instrument to determine the way people solve issues, make decisions, and express their creativity.
What’s the KAI’s role?
KAI employs a meticulously designed questionnaire to determine if the person is less “adaptive” or “innovative.” After the test, the person is awarded a KAI score which reveals where they stand on the continuum of innovation and adaptation.
KAI is a school that teaches and research confirms distinct distinctions in the cognitive style of the Adaptive and innovative end of the spectrum. In particular, the adaptors favour more organized methods of problem-solving and are more comfortable with a team that is united regarding the process and solution. They also are more likely to solve the issue by working within the existing system rather than attempting to create an entirely new system.
However, the innovative people are comfortable using a more unstructured method of problem-solving and don’t see the lack of consensus as a barrier to finding a better solution. In addition, they are inclined to consider alternatives to the current system to find answers, at the risk of not recognizing the benefits of the existing system.
KAI and Teamwork
This makes “innovators” more creative? Not necessarily. There is no one style that is more imaginative or more adept at problem-solving or making decisions. Based on the circumstances, there is a possibility that one class will be better at tackling the problem. In many instances, however, a group consisting of adaptors and innovative thinkers is the most effective, so long as they know how to work in tandem and accept each other’s different perspectives.
However, research has shown that differences in personality of more than 20 points within the KAI scale can lead to trust and communication issues, frequently affecting the ability of a group to collaborate. For example, the most adaptable member of the group will attempt to tackle the problem in detail, assisted by numerous information, whereas the person with more creativity would prefer to stay at a higher in the game and focus on the bigger overall picture. The person who is innovative will be keen to tackle the issue by looking at the problem from different angles. The more adaptable person will prefer to use the tried and accurate solutions.
It’s not unusual for members of a team to misinterpret the differences in their cognitive style (“cognitive differences”) as the difference in capability or capacity. This could result in assumptions (“She’s an accountant and she’s not concerned about the bigger view”) and incorrect perceptions (“This idea is the boss’s latest project”). This can result in internal conflict that could seriously damage collaboration in a group.
Teamwork that is effective requires a balance of the dynamic “innovative” ideas and risk-reducing “adaptive” behaviour. Understanding the cognitive style is crucial to finding this equilibrium.