Are You Apt to Adapt or Generate to Innovate

The topic of how to best leverage each other’s strengths to solve problems and be better advocates spurred up a robust discussion at one of the board retreats I led last month. The problem-solving styles we discussed were those measured by The Kirton Adaptation-Innovation Inventory (the “KAI”) assessment and fall on the Adaption-Innovation Continuum.

Essentially, if you have a more Adaptive style, you prefer to solve problems with a consensually agreed upon structure; whereas those with a more Innovative style are less concerned about the structure or rules in place and are less constrained by “how it’s done.” Where you are on the continuum has all sorts of implications for brainstorming style, willingness to take risks, the degree to which you prefer methodology, process and structure in solving problems, and the degree to which you are bound by rules and group norms.

Most problems are “Complex Problems,” which means their multifaceted solutions require more than one problem-solving style. Therefore, you need to either flex and use your non-preferred style or work in a team. The most effective and efficient is the latter!

When you invest time in understanding your own style you’ll get great insight into your own personal effectiveness and you’ll know how to more effectively collaborate with others. So when someone thinks differently or raises concerns you hadn’t considered, you’ll likely benefit from pausing and asking follow-up questions rather than dismissing that person’s concerns as irrelevant or annoying. He or she might be doing you a favor by pointing out issues in your blind spot – you know, the issues you tend to overlook.

For best results, build a team with members with a range of problem-solving styles so that you are able to solve a broad range of complex problems. And, leaders who manage teams are likely to be more successful if they’re patient and curious. If a colleague is more Adaptive, provide information in a more structured way and empower that person to create the structure necessary to move forward.   If a colleague is more Innovative, be prepared to answer a range of questions, some of which push the bounds of what is considered reasonable and don’t stress about the mess before success.

And, finally, remember to stay curious and view colleagues as collaborators. Ask good open-ended questions to engage and you’ll solve problems more effectively and with less stress!