Correct Usage of A-I Terminology in Business

– A. Manie

Does your organisation see ‘Innovation’ as a requirement for future success? Is ‘Creative Problem Solving’ something that is valued in your business?

If so, what exactly is meant by these terms?

My attendance on a KAI Advanced Workshop reminded me how to answer this question in my own organisation. As Director of Human Resources Development for an International Gases and Chemical company, it is my job to help develop individuals and the corporate culture towards the strategic goals of the business. Two examples of where we use terms like ‘Innovation’ and ‘Creative Problem Solving’ are as follows:-

The Vision statement for Air Products in Europe is “One Team….. dedicated to our customers’ success….. achieving excellence through people, innovation and quality”. So, ‘Innovation’ is clearly an important ingredient of future success.

Listening to Dr. Kirton reminded me about the difference between creative problem solving style as measured by the KAI and individuals’ capacity or ability to solve problems creatively. He alerted me to the pitfalls of using the word innovation as we have done, and I am sure we are not alone in this.

One of the selection criteria we have for graduates is ‘Creative Problem Solving’. The same issue arises here. What exactly are we looking for: style or capacity? As a result of being reminded of the difference between the two, we have asked a group of key managers involved in graduate recruitment to explore exactly what they mean by ‘creative problem solving’. We identified that they are in fact talking about capacity – abstract reasoning ability rather than style.

We have previously used the KAI with a number of groups such as R&D, Quality Improvement Projects and the like, to help them appreciate the importance of style and the contributions that both adaptors and innovators can make. What I learned from the KAI Advanced Workshop was not just how to use the adaptors and innovators scale more appropriately but also, with even more clarity than before, how important it is to be clearer in our use of terms like ‘innovation’ and ‘creative problem solving’.

A. Manie, Human Resources, Air Products plc

Originally published in KAI News, 1994