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New research:

What drives adaptive teams?

It is broadly accepted that individuals have development needs that must be addressed in targeted and personalized ways. But when it comes to development of teams, we often rely on standard approaches and offer one-size-fits-all processes.

Triggerz’ new research into the relationship between individual and team performance demonstrates that the development needs of teams are as diverse and pertinent as for individuals (1).

Therefore, we suggest that the time for designing and devising adaptive learning solutions, not only at individual level, but also for intact teams has come.

From piloting our survey tool “Adaptive CultureTM” we have gained insights into how teams, even within the same organizational unit and leadership structure, show very different results and development needs.

At present, we have completed the initial round of testing of our survey tool among around 100 individuals distributed across 12 teams, with the majority of individuals and teams coming from one unit of a leading global financial services organization.

To measure adaptive performance at both individual and team level we lean on a range acknowledged theories and pre-validated question designs covering key aspects of learning mindset, intrinsic motivation and engagement, including Dweck, Doshi & McGregor, Buckingham and Pink (2). The survey items covering performance of teams is developed with inspiration from the time-proven framework by Patrick Lencioni.

Scoring the responses into two dimensions allows us to visualize members of an organization in two dimensions: ME and WE:

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Our approach rests on the assumption that the survey scoring is predictive of adaptive performance and that data sets can be mapped into a model describing the following four archetypes:

  1. High ME, High WE: Strong Adaptive Performers
  2. High ME, Low WE: Lone stars
  3. Low ME, High WE: Team (only) Performers
  4. Low ME, Low WE: Weak Adaptive Performers

As our focus was on teams rather than individuals, we also reported on team levels. In the visual below an individual has completed the Adaptive Culture Survey assessing the two teams she is working in: The Analyst team and the Beta team. Her score is marked by the bigger green and orange dot (Assessment of ME is of course only completed one time).

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In this example, the Beta team (green dots) is a high performing team whereas the Analyst team (orange dots) likely will benefit from developing their WE performance.

The data from the pilot studies validates our model as all four archetypes of teams are represented even within the same organizational unit, as well as different combinations of them.

Also, the first pilot confirmed the validity of the framework by comparing the survey data with background data from engagement and performance assessments: The pilot organizations recognized teams and individuals who scored high on the Adaptive Culture Survey as highly engaged and high performing as well as low scoring teams and individuals as lower performing.

Next step: Designing adaptive learning solutions for teams and individuals

In-depth data analysis from our pilots show that the variation in scores on adaptive team performance stems from multiple sources covering the broad theoretical framework we have based the Adaptive Culture survey on. This implies that in order to effectively assist teams in evolving adaptive performance, different elements and aspects must be addressed.

Based on our findings, we will therefore continue working on designing adaptive learning methods that target both the individual and team-based factors to develop the adaptive performance and, in turn, evolve the learning culture and performance of the company.

Currently, we are designing a development program for teams where the Adaptive Culture survey data specific to the team is used to select the most relevant and viable components for a training program focusing on the specific development needs of the team and its individual members. We find the potential in combining the team and individual perspective into one adaptive learning approach promising.

Thus, we believe the development of new tools that take the the adaptive performance of teams into consideration should be given a higher priority. Organizations we work with still invest substantially more resources in development of individual leaders compared to development of intact teams. In some cases, with a factor 10:1. Based on the feedback from our pilots, we suggest that in order to more efficiently enhance organizational performance and training budgets, more focus should be directed to adaptive team development.

We will share more about our work in this emerging field in future posts.

If interested in learning more about measuring and develop Adaptive Culture, book us for a 30 minutes introduction. Please contact Frank Lilleøre at

For more about Adaptive performance, please revisit previous post: “The very notion of performance needs an update. Here is why”.

For an overview on how to drive Empowered learning, please download our White Paper: “Learning at the speed of change”

Author: PhD Frank Lilleøre, Senior Learning Advisor & Partner at Triggerz

(1) Recent research by Marcus Buckingham has documented that the variation in people motivation and engagement is larger across units in a single organization than across companies (Buckingham & Goodall, 2019)


(2) Please refer to our recently updated white paper ‘Learning at the Speed of Change’ for an in-depth description of the theoretical framework underlying the Adaptive CultureTM survey tool and an introduction to our initial ideas on how adaptive training interventions for both teams and individuals can be designed.