Adaption-Innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change

Adaption-Innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change

Adaption-Innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change

Adaption-Innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change


Adaption-Innovation theory (A-I theory) is a model of problem solving and creativity, which aims to increase collaboration and reduce conflict within groups. A-I Theory and the associated Kirton Adaption-Innovation (KAI) test have been extensively researched and are increasingly used as tools for teambuilding and personnel management. Kirton outlines the central concepts of the theory, including the processes of problem solving, decision making and creativity.


This book offers new insights and understanding for both managers and academics into people's preferred thinking styles and how they affect ways of doing things, their outcomes, and other people, both in organisations and elsewhere. In most organisations individuals are still mostly considered as technically knowledgeable process boxes, where given the right inputs, training, and environmental conditions the required outputs are expected to appear, working well, smoothly, and on time. There is still little consideration of the match between the different ways in which all people think, problem solve, and create and the demands and constraints of efficient management, the organisational environment, and others with whom they work. These different ways of problem solving encompass a range between bringing about change by working with and within the prevailing paradigm and by first altering this structure in order to bring about desired change.

Thinking style is explored, amply supported by research, and located in problem solving as a whole. Then problem solving is set in the wider, entirely practical, context of the management of diversity (including the diversity of styles) and of change. In this wider setting, problem-solving leadership depends less on the technical expertise of a select few and more upon the selection of appropriate groups that can collectively solve critical, complex problems, in challenging environments, aided by problem-solving leaders. To meet the demands made of managers in today's climate, these leaders require not only the technical expertise to hold the respect of their teams but also knowledge of the problem-solving process and of problem solvers. This notion is currently becoming better considered, as when Khurana (2002) warns against over-reliance on the charismatic superstar: 'When a company is struggling [its directors] will not be satisfied with an executive who is merely talented and experienced. Companies now want leaders.'

This section gives a resume of the ground to be covered. The rest of the chapter reviews a study that became one seminal influence in the development of Adaption-Innovation Theory and its wider setting. It is based on down-to-earth experience and so acts as an introduction, first to the theoretical aspects, and then to the practical considerations, to which we return later in this book.

Adaption-Innovation Theory (A-I theory) relates to thinking style - usually referred to in the literature as cognitive style. This theory explores and describes preferred individual differences in the way humans solve problems; its related psychometric inventory locates individuals on a continuum ranging from high adaption to high innovation.

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