Innovation 500 – Creativity

To kick things off for November we want to encourage everyone to think about the topic of Creativity and either send us a blog post from you or your team via email to [] for inclusion or simply add your comments below.  If you don’t think this is for you at the moment but are interested then sign up so we can keep you informed as we develop.

To give you a flavour we have included some thoughts below from Kevin and Bill

Kirton’s innovative-adaptation continuum by Kevin

Innovators and Adapters
Innovators and Adapters Reused from:

In our curation session for this issue Bill mentioned Kirton’s innovative-adaptation continuum – something I had never heard before.

So what is it?

Kirton’s general insights about creativity and problem solving are:-

  • All people are creative and solve problems.
  • Cognitive style (adaptive or innovative) is different and unrelated to cognitive level (knowledge and capacity).
  • There is no one best cognitive style.
  • One’s preferred cognitive style is genetically determined and stable over a lifetime.
  • A group needs both adaptors and innovators to be effective over time.
  • Forcing someone to work outside their preferred style (comfort zone) will cause stress; in the short-term this might be okay, but in the long-term it will lead to a breakdown in communication and reduction in productivity.

Kirton’s approach is based on everyone having a Cognitive Style –  a preferred approach for solving problems that can be measured along a continuum from adaptive to innovative.

Questions can be used to find out which style you are for example:-

  • Does this person tend to question established rules, assumptions, and structures?
  • Does this person become frustrated or annoyed with details?
  • Does this person tend to have a steady stream of ideas without too much concern about how they’re implemented?

If the answers to the above questions are yes, then this person is more innovative than adaptive. If the answers are no, then the person is more adaptive.

Find out more about Adaptors and Innovators here:- – the framework looks a nice easy way to explain personal diversity in change.

Brainstorming by Bill

Brainstorming as a tool for creativity has been around since the 1940s. It works through free association of ideas. The more ideas a group creates the greater the chance that quality ideas are generated.  The problem is that few people make the best use of the tool.  They start thinking about individual solutions before the creative process has run its course.

If a brainstorm is to be successful there needs to be a powerful permission to be creative. For this reason brainstorms work best when two rules are strictly imposed and maintained. These rules are:

  1. everything the group says is written down (this invites a quantity of ideas and values every contribution)
  2. no contribution is questioned or criticised whilst the brainstorm is happening.

Transactional analysis (TA) has one explanation of why brainstorms work so well. It is because the permissions to be creative invite Child ego states to be fully engaged. It is in our child ego states that we process our emotions and our creativity. With the Child ego states engaged there is a steady flow of ideas. Usually the more laughter there is the greater the flow of ideas.

Internal ego state model

Questions about or criticism of contributions during the brainstorm will disengage the Child by engaging the Adult ego states in a thinking process.  Criticism in particular, usually perceived as coming from a Parent ego state, will remind people of times in the past when they have been put down or criticised by ‘the grown-ups’. This dampens any spark of creativity and is the main reason why brainstorms fail to work.

Only when there are no further ideas coming from the group does the brainstorming end.  Now contributions can be analysed and questions for meaning are encouraged. In other words the group engage Adult ego states.


3 thoughts on “Innovation 500 – Creativity

  1. Kelly Doonan

    This is so helpful. We recently had a brainstorming session where we went to the Jam Room over lunch with a load of post it notes, felt tips and a glass of cider. It felt a bit naughty and rebellious; and that feeling allowed us to loosen up and to play more with the task. A simple bit of adult ‘rule-breaking’ which led to a good creative piece of work being produced!

  2. Colin Bray

    Interesting article, thanks for posting. I particularly like the list of traits associated with innovators/adaptors for use as a reflective tool.

    However the cartoon appears to contradict the commentary that there is no better/worse type to be. In the cartoon the adaptors look fundamentally inefficient compared to the innovators – need this always be the case?


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