Understanding Natural Creative Process Using The KAI

– G. Pershyn

Think back to a problem you solved successfully that called for a new and useful solution. Recall the process you went through in your mind to solve the problem. If you were asked to draw this process, what would your drawing look like? Would it appear as a logical sequence of specific events or activities; a whirlwind of facts, questions and possibilities; or perhaps somewhere between? Looking at the process illustrations in Figure 1, you may find that one of the drawings appears similar to how you might have drawn yours. These drawings represent some of the ways Adaptors and Innovators tend to draw their creative processes.

Natural Creatve Underatdning image

We found that we were able to predict style of creativity based upon drawings of natural creative processes. Can you tell which processes were likely illustrated by high adaptive, high innovative or the more moderate preference styles.

Our creative problem solving (CPS) programs use KAI and a natural creative process, that of drawing, to enhance the creative productivity of individuals and groups. Over time, it became evident that relationships existed between the drawings people do in these programs and their KAI preferences. It was at that point that we began a systematic investigation to examine graphic characteristics of natural creative process drawings and their relationship to style of creativity.

We used a sample of 136 subjects from business and education who completed the KAI and the natural creative process drawing activity as part of our programs. Subjects were asked to recall a real problem they faced and design, illustrate or draw the process they used to solve the problem successfully. These drawings were then analysed for their graphic content and related to scores on KAI.

We found that, although people used a variety of different graphic formats to describe their natural creative processes, over 85% used some form of process flowchart. When Adaptors and Innovators used flowcharts to illustrate their natural creative processes, we found differences in the visual characteristics of their drawings.

Notice in Figure 1, that toward the left end of the continuum, high adaptors tend to draw processes that were linear, orderly and targeted (e.g. “step-by-step” approaches). They also tend to have fewer stages as well as fewer “end” points in their processes. At the opposite end of the continuum, high innovators rendered non-linear forms of processes that appeared more complex, random and contiguous (e.g. “hop-skip-jump-step and restep” approaches). Their processes also contained more stages and multiple “end” points. In some cases, Innovator processes contained infinite iterations with no perceivable end point! People of more moderate (adaptive or innovative) preferences described processes that contained elements from both extremes.

In our classrooms and training programs, the “draw your natural creative process” activity and the use of KAI have proven very successful for helping people understand the relationship between their creativity style and their creative process. It has also explained to groups why they often face the challenges they do when working together on common tasks. Linking people’s creative processes with their style preferences provides a more robust explanation (combining verbal and visual messages) on how they bring about changes they prefer to create.

We took the results of this study one step further and applied our findings to increase our effectiveness in communicating the CPS process visually. Traditionally, the CPS model had been represented graphically in a linear format. Our research suggests the high adaptive bias in depiction of CPS may be more accommodating to only a small subset of the population. In fact, we noticed over time that high innovators typically had more difficulty buying into the linear view of CPS. Our model was sending messages about process that the more innovative found unnatural and often uncomfortable.

As a result, we redesigned our model of the CPS process to promote a less style-bias graphic depiction. We now use this model, in conjunction with other graphic representations of CPS, to accommodate a wider range of style preferences.

Editor’s Note: This was the topic of a MS thesis in 1992.

G. Pershyn, State University of NY at Buffalo

Originally published in KAI News, 1994