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The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) Celebrates 50 Years of Transformative Conflict Management

Ralph Kilmann's new book cover

Mastering the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)

Ken and I can now look back on the past several decades with much joy, appreciating the pivotal decisions we made along the way.”
— Ralph H. Kilmann

NEWPORT COAST, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, January 18, 2024 / -- The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) marks a significant milestone as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Since its inception in 1974, the TKI has become a cornerstone in conflict management, with over 10 million TKIs sold globally.

The TKI is a widely used conflict resolution tool developed by Kenneth W. Thomas and Ralph H. Kilmann. It assesses an individual's preferred conflict-handling style based on five modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. The TKI has been instrumental in fostering better communication, understanding, and collaboration in various professional and personal settings.

The journey of TKI began when Ralph H. Kilmann, during his doctoral program at UCLA's Graduate School of Management, crossed paths with Kenneth W. Thomas in 1970. Little did they know that their collaboration would lead to the creation of a groundbreaking conflict management tool.

Recognizing the limitations of existing conflict-handling assessments, Thomas and Kilmann set out to develop a new instrument. Their innovative approach addressed the social desirability bias, a challenge prevalent in previous assessments. By creating thirty pairs of statements designed to be equal in social desirability, the TKI successfully minimized biases, allowing individuals to authentically express their conflict-handling behaviors.

The TKI was officially published in 1974 by Xicom, opening new avenues for conflict management in business, education, and government. Over the years, the instrument underwent updates and improvements, including addressing criticisms and evolving to embrace gender equality.

In 1998, Xicom, was acquired by CPP (now named, The Myers-Briggs Company), ushering in a new era for the TKI. The instrument's reach expanded globally with translations into multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Japanese, and Chinese.

The TKI's resilience and adaptability were evident in 2002 when the new publisher introduced an online platform, providing instant results and facilitating extensive data collection. This innovation paved the way for updating the TKI norms from the 1970s to the 2000s, reaffirming the stability of conflict-handling behavior over time.

The TKI's success extended beyond national borders. A landmark international study conducted in 2008 explored conflict norms in sixteen different countries. Subsequent studies on translated versions of the TKI further demonstrated its applicability across diverse cultures.

As the TKI marks its golden anniversary, it stands as a testament to its creators, Ken Thomas and Ralph Kilmann, in ensuring its relevance and impact on conflict management worldwide.

Ralph Kilmann expressed his gratitude, stating, "Ken and I can now look back on the past several decades with much joy, appreciating the pivotal decisions we made along the way."

The TKI's journey continues as it remains a vital tool for individuals, teams, and organizations seeking effective and collaborative conflict management.

Kilmann Diagnostics
Maureen Kelly
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Ralph Kilmann expresses his joy and reflections about what led to the development of the TKI, why it has endured, and what to expect during the next 50 years