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Monday, February 25, 2013

Innovative and Adaptive Traits Should be balanced in Management Teams



Developing strong teams should take into consideration the various cognitive styles that employees use. Innovators and adaptors have different approaches to tacking issues and can complement each other’s styles. Mixing those who work within the system with those who can change the system may provide higher solutions to problems. The personality of members is often associated with how they solve problems. 

Innovation is based within the employee’s abilities and their motivation to make such concepts practical. People differ in their abilities to problem-solve and exist within a continuum ranging from adaption to innovation (Kirtion, 1994). People who engage in adaptive behavior work within existing systems while those who are innovators work to create novel systems. 

The personality of employees can have a significant impact on the overall use of innovative strategies. Personality can be seen as a cognitive style wherein people prefer to perform similar mental tasks (Goldsmith, 1994). Some personalities are more prone to developing new paradigms and solutions to existing problems while others are more focused on fixing systems within current understandings. 

In any organization or on any team it is important to have innovators and adaptors to balance out the two cognitive approaches. Adaptors weaknesses can be hedged by the innovators strengths and visa versa for innovators weaknesses and adaptors strengths (Kirton, 1994). An adaptor may be able to create an efficient program within existing understandings. Yet such adaptors do not often have the ability to create new ways of solving problems.

A study conducted by  Xu and Tuttle (2012) administered an adaptation-innovation scale with  the Big Five personality inventory to 517 accountants with approximately 20 years of prior work experience.  Demographic information was also collected on participants to understand gender and background. Even though the study was designed to test a new instrument it still came up with a number of important conclusions. 

Results:

-Participants with Openness and Extroversion were also more innovative. 

-Conscientiousness is positively associated with Approach to Efficacy. People with Approach to Efficacy traits are able to work longer periods of time toward a goal while adaptors are sloppy and avoid following routine. 

-Accountants have a preference for adaptive styles. 

-Female accountants are more prone to be adaptive styles.

The research indicates that accountants are more adaptive by nature. As a practical application accountants with a preference for adaptive styles should be counter-balanced by CEO’s with higher levels of innovative vision. When profit margins are declining, working within the system without changing that system may be futile. Organizations and teams should consider the balance of members with adaptive traits and those with more extroverted innovative traits in order to effectively hedge cognitive styles.

Kirton, M.  (1994). A theory of cognitive style, in Kirton, M.J. (Ed), Adaptors and Innovators: Styles of creativity and Problem Solving, Revised edition, Routledge, London.

Goldsmith, R. (1994). Creative style and personality theory, In Kirton, M.J. (Ed), Adaptors and Innovators: Styles of Creativity and Problem Solving, Revised edition, Routledge, London.

Xu, Y. & Tuttle, B. (2012). Adaption-Innovation at Work: A New Measure of Problem- Solving Styles. Jamar, 10 (1).

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