The Value of Adaption and Innovation as a Function of Diversity

The Value of Adaption and Innovation as a Function of Diversity

Curtis Friedel (Virginia Tech, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9624-2.ch043
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When one is asked to put a diverse team together to solve a particular problem, one often thinks of diversity as differences in ethnicity, gender, social economic status, and age. However, one variable not often considered is problem-solving style. Kirton's Adaption-Innovation (AI) theory explains how some people are more adaptive while others are more innovative in their style of solving problems. Because many of today's problems are complex, if not wicked, both more adaptive and more innovative individuals need to work together on teams to solve problems so that unintended consequences of problems may be anticipated. A case study is presented in this chapter providing evidence to suggest distinguishing characteristics of those who are more adaptive or more innovative may be misattributed to nationality or culture, despite evidence of independence between these variables. Finally, Kirton's AI theory is linked to the study of leadership.
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Our western culture is currently focused on innovation. So much so that innovation has become a buzz word found in many television advertisements indicating how a company is better and more forward thinking through integrating new technologies and having breakthrough ideas. Consultants hired to facilitate innovative thinking within organizations will tout “innovate or die” (Oxford, 2013). This, however, wasn’t always the case in the western world. Before World War II large companies were not sources of “outside-the-box” thinking or paradigm breaking ideas to integrate systems for the purpose of being different than everybody else, but were sources of improving efficiency, “inside-the-box” thinking, and honing infrastructures to increase productivity (Chandy & Tellis, 2000). Inventions cherished during this time of our history include the assembly line, mechanized agriculture, and electric lighting. By Kirton’s (2011) definition, these inventions were not innovative, but more adaptive (Kirton, 2011). The differences between the two will be discussed in the next few paragraphs.

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