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Creative Style – What Is It? Written by Sandy Cormack Creative style is, quite literally, the style of your creativity. Creative style does not refer to how  creative you are – instead, it answers the question ‘How am I creative?’ Creative style is thinking style.  It is the manner in which you go about solving problems.  Although all people are creative and can solve problems, not everyone does so in the same  manner. Creative style theory was pioneered by Dr. Michael Kirton in the 60s.  He sought to determine  why certain organizational initiatives succeeded while others failed.  Creative style theory  addresses this phenomenon. When people think about creativity, they generally think of what you might call ‘creative level.’  In other words, Person A is more or less creative than Person B.   In this manner we associate creativity with things like talent, intellect, ability.  DaVinci is more  creative than the guy who can draw Blinky from the art school aptitude ad. From now on think about creativity in this way: creativity = level + style. Creative STYLE is completely independent from creative LEVEL.  The extremes of creative  level are simply ‘high’ and ‘low’.  The extremes of creative style are very different. The extremes for creative style are adaptive (associated with ‘doing things better’) and  innovative (associated with ‘doing things differently’).   Think of it as illustrated here:

Creative Style – W hat Is It?© 2010

Style vs Level Level High




Those who prefer a more adaptive style are commonly referred to as adaptors and those who  prefer a more innovative style are called innovators. Here are some characteristics of adaptors and innovators: Adaptors tend to…

Innovators tend to…

In problem solving

Refine, extend, improve the current accepted structure or process

Break, modify, eliminate, replace the current structure or process

In managing change

Prefer gradual, incremental change

Prefer radical, transformational change

In defining a problem

Look for threats from WITHIN the system

Look for threats EXTERNAL to the system

In generating ideas

Look to what worked in the past, Proliferate exciting, theoretical producing a few reliable ideas ideas, many seen as impractical

In methodology

Be precise and reliable, seeking solutions in accepted ways

Challenge basic assumptions, thinking tangentially, inefficiently

In managing structure

Rarely challenge the prevailing rules, maintaining continuity and stability

Break the prevailing rules, often seen as a mold-breaker and risk-taker

In decision making

Achieve consensus

Stand alone

Because of these differences, adaptors and innovators often view one another pejoratively.  Innovators see adaptors as stodgy, slow to change, old­fashioned.  Adaptors see innovators as  undisciplined, abrasive, reckless.  Looking for a reason two people don’t get on?  Look here  first. Creative Style – W hat Is It?© 2010

Dr. Kirton went on to create an inventory to measure creative style – the Kirton Adaption­ Innovation Inventory (KAI).  It’s a 33 question inventory that produces a score between 32 and  160, midpoint 96.   A lower score indicates a more adaptive style, a higher score a more innovative style.  An organization must welcome and cultivate creative diversity to succeed • • •

All people solve problems and are creative Adaptors and innovators can be equally good or bad at problem solving – they just do so differently It takes a wide range of styles to solve all problems

Sandy Cormack is a consultant specializing in personal development, organizational  development, and strategic planning. His personal mission is to help individuals understand  their own personalities and creativity, help them better understand others, and show them how  to collaborate effectively. His focuses are creativity, problem solving, innovation, organizational  strategy development and change management. He is certified to administer the MBTI  (personality typing) and KAI (creative style) to individuals and organizations.

Creative Style – W hat Is It?© 2010

Creative Style - What Is It  
Creative Style - What Is It  

The extremes for creative style are adaptive (associated with ‘doing things better’) and innovative (associated with ‘doing things different...