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Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory

After conducting extensive research, Dr. Michael Kirton discovered that people fall into two broad families which represent creative style ( but not capacity):
  1. Those people who prefer to take ideas and improve them. These people are fairly cautious, practical and use standard approaches. They prefer incremental innovation. Their motto is to do things Better.
  2. Those people who prefer to find new ideas by sometimes overturning concepts. These people challenge and can be risky and abrasive. They are into 'big bang ' innovation. Their motto is to do things differently.
Unfortunately, Kirton uses two 'emotionally packed' terms to describe each family.

The former family are called Adapters, the later the rather 'sexier' term of innovator.

Kirton believes that Adapters are no less creative than innovators - it is just that they see and approach things from a different perspective.


The Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI) determines your preferred family. It considers your creative style NOT your capacity or ability to be creative. In addition it gives insights into how you communicate, make decisions and which techniques you may prefer.

Scores are ranged on a continuum from 32 to 160 with a population average of 96. Those less than 96 are referred to as Adapters. Those above 96 are referred to as Innovators.
The degree of each depends on how far an individual is away from the average.

Range of KAI Scores
A d a p t o r s
I n n o v a t o r s
32 64 96 128 160
KIA Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory
Two thirds of people are in this range

The instruments provides 3 sub scores:

  • Originality is the degree of preference in generating ideas
  • Efficiency is the degree of preference for thoroughness, attention to detail
  • Rule/group conformity is the preference for operating within rules, structure, consensus

How innovative ideas are received

The ideas of an Innovator are treated sceptically in an adaptive organisation. The Adaptor has an easier ride. In addition, failure of ideas are less damaging to the adaptor since incorrect assumptions upon which the idea is based are also shared with others. In contrast the innovative ideas are less closely related to the groups prevailing paradigm and the originator may be treated with suspicion.

Consequences for the Organisation

Organisations that are large and have been successful over a long period of time are inevitably Adaptive oriented to guard against unacceptable risk. Characteristics include exerting pressure to be methodical, prudent and disciplined enforcing individual conformity. Managers who work in particularly stable environments tend to be Adaptive. Turbulent environments tend to be innovative.

Groups such as bankers, accountants who are largely required to work in a system within which the answers to problems are likely to be found tend to be adaptive.

In several studies :

  • A sample of 88 UK managers had a mean score of 97 (sd 17)
  • A sample of 47 Bank employees showed a mean of 90 (sd 19). US banking staff were found to be 90 (sd 14)

On this basis Banks are predominantly adaptive organisations.

Innovation or process improvement groups are likely to be adaptive, preferring to produce few ideas but analysing these in depth. It is also likely that small improvements will be identified by the group rather than big changes.