Planning, problem solving, and Kirton's A-I theory within an organizational framework Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Creed, Michael W.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of City and Regional Planning
  • Planners must be technically competent in many disparate facets of contemporary urban society. And, since planners cannot be experts in all things they must be skilled in problem-solving processes involving people with widely varying motives, knowledge, and personalities. This research investigates problem-solving processes in small groups solving a non-trivial and non-value-laden problem under tight constraints. Planners are, first and foremost, problem solvers. Problem solving requires learning and learning requires reframing perspectives; i.e., destroying old conceptions and biases to make room for new understanding. These are cognitive processes that are explained in Kirton's Adaption-Innovation theory (cognitive style) which will be the major theoretical framework for this research. This research is based on the assumption that the most elemental decision-making unit in planning organizations is a small group. This research investigates interpersonal dynamics in small groups based on cognitive style theory and its relative cognitive gap theory. A group of 88 volunteers from a multi-office engineering firm participated in one of 12 trials of the Hollow-Square: A Communications Experiment . Findings from these experiments were compared with prior research from two major university studies using ad hoc volunteers. In contrast, all participants in this research worked for the same company and were assumed to comprise intact small groups. Hypotheses were advanced positing superior problem-solving outcomes by intact groups over ad hoc groups. Participants were placed on teams based on their relative cognitive styles (KAI scores). The experiments were conducted under tight time and rule constraints. Means tests were conducted on proportions of successful outcomes for this research and the prior research. The intact groups in this research were no more successful in solving the puzzle than the comparison ad hoc groups. Video recording of the exercises provided serendipitous opportunities to explore broader considerations than the initial hypotheses anticipated. The Jablokow-Booth problem- solving model was examined and its cognitive gap propositions were operationalized and employed in empirical research for the first time. These considerations were presented using an adaptation of Flanagan's critical incident technique. Cognitive style extremes and cognitive gaps were identified as causal impediments to successful small group problem solving.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of City and Regional Planning."
  • Malizia, Emil E.
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

This work has no parents.