Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory


During daily work we may often hear something like: "My subordinates have unrealistic expectations… they cannot do the little things well, let alone the big ones "; "I cannot work with him; he’s too seriously, he’s not flexible at all "....

People tend to perceive characteristic or inherent differences as differences of capacity (often saying something like: silly man, foolish woman; silly old fool, stupid youth; undisciplined employees, rigid boss), which always leaves the speaker’s in-group as superior. This seems a natural inclination we may share with herd animals; the in-group is familiar, safe and good; the out-group is irrelevant or hostile. The notion of “different but equally valuable” requires insight and time to learn.

The results and observations from a study of management initiatives by Dr. M. Kirton DSc - the director and founder of the Occupational Research Centre - heavily influenced the development of Adaption-Innovation Theory. In this study, Dr. Kirton repeatedly observed that “personalities” were seen to have characteristic effects on the progress and success of group and corporate initiatives in organizations.

Around the creative world, some initiatives went through with little or no discussion, while others took years from the first time they were suggested to the start of their implementation. These seemed to be ones that needed a shift by the majority of the group in the way the problem was perceived before the solution proposed could be seriously considered. Until the shift occurred some proposals looked risky - or worse – irrelevant. In groups with a different “personality mode”, proposed changes were dismissed as mere tedious tinkering. Although their champions argued they would have led to some immediate improvement to the current system, no change occurred. KAI theory gives an understanding of the source and implications of these differences and their effect on teamwork at all levels.

KAI measures people on their style of problem solving and creativity. It is founded on the assumption that all people solve problems and are creative, that is, everyone has the capability to solve problems and be creative. KAI emphasizes two key issues: (1) when we solve problems we are limited by the way we are built (e.g. our intelligence; no-one has endless capacity or flexibility). (2) all of us are intelligent and creative at different levels and with different styles, therefore all of us are capable of learning to contribute to team problem solving, as long as there is both motive and opportunity. KAI is different with other psychological tests in that KAI focuses on measuring people’s problem solving and creative style.

KAI Theory measures people’s preferred style of problem solving which is more adaptive or more innovative through the resulting scores by answering questions. Note that these two types of style have no gap between them, and creativity is the same; they just do things differently.

The table below lists people with different KAI scores. Based on their own particular thinking style, people will choose a more suitable career.


Occupational Differences

KAI Score




Branch Bank Managers, Cost Accts, Plant Managers, Maintenance Engineers

UK, US, Italy, Canada, Singapore, Slovakia


Secretaries, Nurses, Teachers



Military Officers, Managers generally, Engineers generally

UK, US, Italy, Canada, Singapore, Slovakia


R&D Managers, Marketing, Finance, Fashion Buyers

UK, US, Italy, Canada, Singapore, South Africa

So does this mean low KAI scorers are not suitable for work? What if someone’s chosen career is incompatible with their natural thinking style, should they change jobs? What do the different scores mean within a team? Do we need to hire someone from outside?

Allow KAI Theory to help us!

To learn more about KAI training course, please visit CBi China Bridge’s website,, or call us at +86 21 5059 6066.


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