KAI in the Management of Diversity

Steve Zeisler

Over the past several months, I have increasingly used KAI with both the consultants who work at guiding development teams through the new product development methodology and with the development teams themselves. As Adaption-Innovation Theory and its implications are understood by consultants and team members, we have found that the inventory, as part of a framework for team working, is an effective means for individuals and teams to gain a greater understanding of themselves, others within the teams, and the dynamics involved. KAI does help teams better understand thinking style gaps, other diversities and potential blind spots in their performance; how to compensate or overcome those weaknesses; and how to ensure diverse thinking is brought to bear on key issues. It can help teams understand the stress points in their interpersonal relationships and in the type of work they are doing. It can even predict trouble spots. KAI can help teams identify the strategies they can employ to minimise the tension inherent in diverse teams. It can assist teams in making greater use of their creative styles, decision making skills and in structuring their proposals to be accepted more readily by their organisations and the marketplace.

Enthusiasm for incorporating KAI into team frameworks stems from comments made by participating managers, such as the following:

  • KAI takes a fresh and sorely needed perspective, which does much to demystify and offset the misconceptions about creativity and individuals and teams
  • KAI provides sound theoretical and research data which helps legitimise the area of creativity, decision making and change
  • KAI, by switching the focus away from “level” and into diversity of cognitive styles, provides a most liberating experience for people who have laboured under the misconceptions that deem Innovators as High Value and Adaptors as Low Value
  • KAI minimises the labelling and categorising of people by helping them understand that everyone is capable of working outside of their preferred style when the situation demands – that behaviour does not equal style
  • KAI is applicable and meaningful across a wide array of team working issues

As business continues to focus on structures and processes that examine the “what” that is required for improvement, I believe KAI can provide the competitive edge in helping business understand the “how” of implementing these improvements. Both consultants who work with teams to help them understand the mechanics of their particular change process, and teams who work within these structures, are discovering the value of KAI. When coupled with robust methodologies that change the work teams do, reducing the cycle time of team working can yield significant bottom line business results.

Steve Zeisler, Du Pont Corp.

Originally Published in KAI News 1993