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Managing Diversity: A New Perspective

A Workshop on Thinking Style featuring the KAI Assessment

The third in the series of the SELT Professional Development sessions for 2001-02 was held on Wednesday, January 23, 2002 in CSB Alumnae Hall.  Approximately 74 faculty, administrative and support staff, students and outside community members were in attendance at the breakfast program.  SELT members Barb Fahnhorst, Cindy Dirkes and Tonya Miller facilitated this session.

The speaker was Paul Marsnik, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Management at CSB/SJU.   Paul is a 1981 graduate of SJU; received his Masters in Management at the University of Nebraska in 1992; and received his Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior in 1997.    

Participants were required to complete the Kirton Adaption-Innovation Inventory tool as part of this session.  The instruments were scored by Paul, a certified administrator of the KAI Assessment, and handed back during the session. 

The participants were divided into groups, based on their results of the KAI tool.  The groups ranged from AA (extreme adaptor) to II (extreme innovator).  The score each person received determined their position on the KAI scale of adaptors and innovators as well as their placement in the group at the session.  The average style score on the scale is a 95.  If the participant’s style scored less than 95, they were categorized an adaptor.  If the style score was more than 95, they were categorized an innovator.  If the style score was at 95, they were the bridger.  When considering thinking styles, an adaptor would be: safe, inflexible, wedded to the system, stays within the parameters, prefers well-established structured situations; where as an innovator would be:  risky, exciting, threatening to the system, produces numerous ideas, prefers less structured situations.  A bridger has traits of both styles.

 At today’s session, the overall score distribution was just around average, although there was an even mix of extreme adaptors, bridgers and extreme innovators.    When the groups were asked what are its strengths and weaknesses, the adaptors prefer a safe and secure environment but have a sense of fear of taking the risk, can’t get out of “the box.”  An innovator has great ideas and sees the “big picture,” but may not always know the best route to get it together.  The bridgers in the group want security and produce ideas, but often times find themselves stuck in the middle to satisfy both adaptors and innovators, or have to do it all. 

 How does one apply this to his/her job?  In actuality, the adaptors, who can’t get out of “the box,” rely on the innovators, who see the “big picture.”  The innovators, who need a plan to make it work, rely on the adaptors to implement the plan.  Therefore, if the work environment is comprised of either all adaptors or all innovators, there is more risk for failure.  However, when there is a balance of both, there may be more potential for a conflict, but there is a greater chance of survival and prosperity if there is tolerance and effort from both.  Good management allows people to do what they do well, and then get out of the way.

The three most important guidelines of this session are: 

  • to understand your own thinking style;
  • to take time to learn the thinking style of others; and
  • to value diversity – rely on those who are different to give you new perspective and to resist the temptation to go the comfortable route (especially in a crisis).