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Kirton Adaption Innovation Inventory

Creativity Style

Michael Kirton of the UK developed the concept of Creativity Style (as distinct from Creativity Level). Creativity Style is a preferredstablemanner of bringing about change.

KAI Centre, UK

Creativity Style is the extent to which one prefers structureCreativity Level is the power at which we are operative. 

According to Kirton, people cannot and do not want to change their fundamental and stable, preferred style of behavior. He states that one can behave in most any style, but there tends to be one preferred style.

Kirton developed a single dimensional instrument to measure Creativity Style called the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI). The KAI is a continuum, the left end of which is labeled "Adaption" and the right end, "Innovation". People are consideres "adaptors" or "innovators" depending on where they fall on the continuum. Kirton emphasizes that Adaption and Innovation not two hermetically sealed categories; instead, people - and more generally, populations - are moreadaptive or more innovative relative to each other, based on their KAI scores (mean scores for populations).

The KAI scale ranges from 32 to 160 with a population mean of 96.  Almost the entire population has KAI scores in the range 45 to 145. KAI scores outside this range are exceedingly rare.

Adaptors and Innovators

  • Adaptor style is to do better; Innovator style is to do different
  • Nobel Laureates, archaeologists, tend to be adaptors
  • Edison: Adaptor


  • Homogeneous: easier to form and manage, more efficient for specific problems
  • Heterogeneous: more difficult to form and manage, more efficient for a wider range of problems
  • Pick group according to nature of problem
  • Inter- and Intra-group conflict


How much structure is needed? Both too much structure and too little structure are counter productive-with too little (entropy), one ceases to be a thinking animal, and too much structure (rigidity) is perceived as being much too restrictive. Man operates in a region in between the two extremes. In this region, one can be more or less creative, any where along the band, at any given degree of structure.

Generating ideas

Adaptors produce fewer ideas, but expect many of those to succeed (elephant strategy). Innovators produce many ideas, but expect few to succeed (frog strategy). Organizations tend to reward adaptors for remaining within the paradigm even when they fail. Organizations tend to punish innovators for transgressing the bounds of the paradigm, even if they are successful.

Nearly every scientist who discovered an element in the periodic table was awarded a Nobel Prize. These were highly creative adaptors. Edison was a high-level adaptor.

Group Differences

Both adaptors and innovators are and have been highly successful. Nevertheless understanding one's own style helps in being more tolerant of other styles, and recognizing situations where those styles are very-well suited for application.

A difference of 5 points between the averages of two groups is noticeable and statistically significant. A difference of 10 points is noticeable and statistically reliable. A differnce of 20 points or more often leads to communication difficulties.

Any occupational group (function, profession) may have a mean different from that of the general population if that group's setting generates a need and a climate which is either more adaptive or innovative than the general population.

The population mean for males and females differs by between 4 and 7 points, with females tending towards the adaptive end of the spectrum relative to males.

Organizational fit

in fitnot in fit
adaptorSSLLSS = most likely to stay
LL= most likely to leave
innovatorSLS = likely to stay
L = likely to leave

Organizational fit is more important to adaptors than innovators. Adaptors are most likely to stay in organization where they fit and most likely to leave when they don't fit. Innovators are less strongly motivated by considerations of organizational fit to stay or leave since they are less likely to pay attention to whether or not they are in fit.

There needs to be sufficient common ground to form a group.

A homogeneous group (or adaptors or innovators) is easier to form, manage, and is more efficient where the problems or direction is specified.

A heterogeneous group is more difficult to form and manage, but is more effcient for a wider range of problems.

Cognitive Climate

Number of people with power X Cognitive style of those people = Cognitive Climate

This becomes the dominant coalition or the consensus group.

In large organizations, about 40% are largely in cognitive fit with the organizational environment.

Bridger: who helps bridge a wide gap in Kirton.

Skewed organizational distribution. When new chief introduced, the pendulum may swing. Some are ejected or leave, when they are out of sync with the cognitive climate.

Organizations often know in which direction to swing, but typically not how much. The pendulum may swing too far in the other direction. Each swing results in some damage to morale. The best people may leave along with the unproductive ones.

Innovators are more likely to be found where they are not expected to be found than adaptors. But they often need to adapt in order to stay.

Deviation from the norm is typically tolerated as long as it fits into the prevailing paradigm. The more rules you break the more difficult it becomes for you: for instance, a male breaking the rules might be tolerated more than a female doing the same.

Correlations with other measures

Correlation between KAI and IQ in children is practically zero.

Creativity, Problem Solving and Decision making

All are concerned with the generation or resolution of novelty.


A paradigm can only promise that in time, it would accommodate a problem under consideration that does not fit into a prevailing paradigm. 
The weakness of the adaptor is staying with a paradigm past its prime. The weakness of the innovator is dumping a paradigm when it still has life left in it. Paradigmatic change is a cause of worry to both adaptors and innovators.

No paradigm will succeed until it is accepted by adaptors.

Hi-lo style-level

High level |<---------------------------------paradigm 1----------------------------------->|

Low level |<--paradigm 1-->|

High style |<------------paradigm 1------------->| |<------------paradigm 2------------->| |<------------paradigm 3------------->|

Low style |<--paradigm 1-->| |<--paradigm 2-->| |<--paradigm 3-->|

Creativity and usefulness (according to Kirton)

Teresa Amabile's criteria for creativity:

  • Discontinuous thought
  • High level
  • Usefulness (to self plus at least one other person)

Problem with above criteria: Different judges may weight criteria differently.

Also, consider Abb� Mendel's work on peas that later launched the field of genetics. His work was not useful in his time. It would seem absurd that an idea acquires creativity after a period of time. It is either creative or not creative. Hence it is not appropriate to build in the notion of usefulness into any measure of creativity.


1 Examine carefully any scores >145 or <45
2 Too few "Very Hard"/"Hard" or "Very Easy"/"Easy" are suspect.
3 Too many (>10) 3's are suspect.


In an exercise where homogeneous groups of adaptors and innovators were asked to list the advantages and disadvantages of being what they were, the adaptor groups were hard pressed to find any disadvantages, while innovator groups tended to find many. Innovators are far more ready to admit to disadvantages.

Presenting results

Try not to gloss over individual differences. They are real and they need to be brought out. Most importantly, their recognition and appreciation will lead to more harmony in heterogenous groups.


S-N and P-J correlate ~0.5 each with KAI. When combined, their correlation with KAI is ~0.6.



"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "Press On" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."

--Calvin Coolidge

Imagination is more important than knowledge

--Albert Einstein