Tag: Cognitive style

Ralf HallerRalf Haller June 13, 2010

Innovators vs. Adaptors: how to select people for an innovation project

nnovation and marketing are well-known as the key elements of successful entrepreneurship. “Cognitive style” is an individual’s preferred approach for solving problems and can be measured along a continuum from adaptive to innovative. To put it more catchy: adaptors are more inside-the-box thinking and innovators are more into outside-the-box thinking. For innovation projects to be successful you need a mix of both innovators and adaptors though. A simple way to find out if someone is more innovator or adaptor you can ask the following questions:

  • Are established rules, assumptions, and structures questioned?
  • Does the person become frustrated or annoyed with details?
  • Does the person create lots of ideas without asking too much about how these can be implemented?

If all three questions are answered with a “yes” then the person is – obviously – more an innovator than adaptor.

To more quantify the degree of innovative vs. adaptive personality you can use the Kirton-Innovation (KAI) Inventory instrument. There are 33 statements that one has to respond to which will lead to a score between 32 (most adaptive) and 160 (most innovative) on a normally distributed numerical scale. More details on the subject you can also find on theirĀ website and in thisĀ video.

In innovation projects a good common sense approach is to let the innovative people lead the opportunity-identification and ideation phases while those who are more adaptive ones can lead the design and implementation phases. That way you also keep them separated since these two personality extremes are also hard to integrate and have work together unless there is a so called “bridger” who manages the ideation exercise. That person should lie in between adaptors and innovators and as such can help to overcome communication and other barriers to progress.