Adaption-Innovation Theory at ISU: A Personal and Professional Viewpoint

I witnessed a major impact as our staff used the theory to significantly improve working relationships and to accept those who thought differently from themselves.

William Littlejohn

I was introduced to the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Theory and Inventory in October 1994 as part of a course in Creative Problem Solving offered by ISU’s Blumberg Center. In May 1997, I completed a KAI Certification Course in Toronto, Ontario conducted by Dr. Kirton. The experience in Toronto served as a launching pad for my being more involved and impacted by the Adaption-Innovation theory and KAI than I could have ever imagined before going to Toronto.

Creative Problem Solving Programs

The week following my return to Indiana, I presented the KAI information during our Creative Problem Solving (CPS) program. That was our 12th CPS program, and we have since completed a total of 48 through June 2004. I have made the KAI presentation many times over the years during our CPS programs. It is not unusual for a participant to report with great excitement (and sometimes emotion), that the insights gained from the brief KAI presentation and feedback were an epiphany for him or her. They report how A-I theory helps them to understand some of the mystery about their relationships and acceptance in their workplaces.

KAI Workshops

I had gone to Toronto with a single purpose: to become certified in KAI to deliver the KAI presentation during our CPS programs. While there, I realized that the A-I theory had much more to offer. I arranged for Dr. Kirton to offer his Certification Course in Indiana throughthe Blumberg Center. Wanting to know more about the practical use of the A-I theory, I arranged a one-day workshop for the Blumberg Center staff. I witnessed a major impact as our staff used the theory to improve working relationships significantly and to accept those who thought differently from themselves. A-I theory speaks to likely difficulties between persons with a large gap between their KAI scores. There were two people on staff who had difficulty getting along. The KAI workshop revealed they had a 60 point gap (this is a large gap) between their KAI scores, one person scoring as highly Adaptive, while the other person was much more Innovative in preference. Realizations and insights resulted in changes that were implemented, bringing significantly improved relationships between the two staff members and improving the overall working climate in our offices.

In the nearly half dozen KAI Certification Courses offered through the Blumberg Center, we trained our entire CPS training team, and many persons from the United States and Canada from large companies (e.g., Kimberly-Clark, Anheuser-Busch, Eli Lilly, Hallmark, Fannie Mae) and many independent consultants who worked with the military and with large agencies (e.g., NASA, CIA, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy). I also met many faculty members from universities in the U.S. and Canada through these courses and was enriched through interacting with such a bright and diverse group. It was a pleasure to learn that these successful and often highly placed people shared with me the belief that the A-I theory was an important concept to spread to others.


The relationship I developed with Dr. Kirton and his work with A-I theory has led to my working with key administrators, faculty, a small group of KAI certified faculty and staff. We have also read Kirton’s most recent book, Adaption-Innovation: In the Context of Diversity and Change (2003). This book and the discussions with our KAI Faculty Learning Community have given me a wider perspective about leadership, problem solving, and especially about working with others. In reflection, I have used KAI to expand the community of learners wth whom I am engaged.

Personal Perspectives

Knowledge of the A-I theory has greatly impacted my belief about the value and benefits of building and protecting a wide range of cognitive diversity within organizations and teams. It has provided insights that we have used at the Blumberg Center to check our marketing materials for appeal across the A-I continuum. It has increased my awareness of differences, my tolerance, and my ability to observe preferences of people in their approaches to change and problem solving. I have been able to use A-I theory in my work as director of the Blumberg Center, and in my interactions with my family and others. And, hey, it’s been fun to meet people who are highly placed in companies like IBM, Proctor and Gamble, Xerox, etc. whom I never would have met. My network of associates who know and use KAI includes people in several countries. These associations have enriched my life and my learning.

Dr William Littlejohn, associate professor in Special Education, and director of the Blumberg Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Special Education in the College of Education, Indiana State University. 2004.