Another extremely valuable tool for innovation organizations to use is the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory. KAI measures style of problem solving and creativity. This tool provides insight into how people solve problems and interact whilst decision-making. Using this insight, Innovation Management leaders can improve the dynamics and cohesion of their teams. The tool shows that individuals within a team approach problems differently and that this very difference can be used to strengthen the team. This understanding leads to the differences not only being tolerated, but welcomed.
The KAI instrument is a form containing 32 questions. Upon completion an individual is provided a “score” between 60 and 160. Low values indicate individuals are High Adaptors, i.e. very “in-the-box” oriented when solving problems, whereas high values indicate individuals are High Innovators, very unconstrained “out-of-the-box” thinkers. Those individuals with values in between are good communication “Bridgers” that hold teams together. For example:
1. When understanding, defining the problem, issue or objective:
High Adaptors: (1) will tend to accept the problem as given, (2) will prefer to continue being relatively more structured, (3) will focus on key issues – identify the important data, (4) will carefully state (define) the problem – to ensure a relevant solution, and (5) may focus more on current reality than on desired future.
High Innovators: (1) will be likely to re-define the problem, (2) may change the definition of the problem to fit a desired solution, and (3) will likely focus more on the desired future instead of the current reality
2. When generating ideas, solutions or options:
High Adaptors: (1) will generate a variety of practical and useful ideas – they expect a low failure rate
High Innovators: (1) will readily generate many novel and unusual ideas, some of which may be seen as not directly related to the problem statement – they tolerate a high failure rate.
3. When planning for action:
High Adaptors: (1) may generate many criteria to analyze new ideas, and (2) will be thorough and patient in working out details
High Innovators: (1) will try to maintain the presence of novelty when generating criteria and preparing to gain acceptance of the solutions, and (2) need to sell the new paradigm as well as a solution.
As with the Myers-Briggs instrument, the general guideline for innovation research is to put as much KAI diversity as possible into a team or decision-making group, with the caveat that the team must still be able to work congenially with one another. Increasing an organization’s capability to function with diverse project and management teams is again enhanced by training sessions focused on building individual understanding that one thinking style is not better or worse than another, just different. For KAI, there is also an advantage to building project teams whose members KAI scores on average decrease as a project moves down the stage-gate or innovation commercialization pipeline.
As before, a deep dive into the nuances of KAI evaluations is not the purpose of this work. It is strongly recommended that all R&D leaders also become well-versed in understanding the utility of this tool.