Predicting Team Behaviour from its Style

Theory is clear that homogenous groups of adaptors and innovators should arrive at decisions which reflect the modal characteristics of their KAI score. A group of adaptors should arrive at an adaptive decision; a group of innovators should reach an innovative decision. If KAI measures adaption and innovation accurately, and if the theory that homogeneous groups of adaptors and innovators will arrive at less effective decisions in wider-ranging, more complex problems, then the following quasi-experimental research task should support that hypothesis.

The 1985 management training class was split into three groups of High Innovative, Middle Ranging and High Adaptive scorers. The groups were otherwised balanced for gender and department distribution. The middle-scoring group was composed of scorers falling near, and closely on either side of a KAI mean of 98. The three groups were charged with the same task: over the next three months: you are to develop a proposal for addressing the disposal of non-hazardous solid waste for the state. Speakers were brought in to address the topic; participants visited several solid waste disposal sites, and each group spent many hours in individual and group research. Because this report would be presented in both oral and written form to the state’s Department of Health and Environment, participants were committed to an outstanding product. The commissioner of the department would attend the oral presentation.

The groups worked on their proposals all summer. During the last week of training each group in a ‘dress rehearsal’ presented its recommendations to a panel of four solid waste experts. The experts commented on each of the three plans, and evaluated the plans along several dimensions using a 1-10 scoring scheme. Innovativeness was measured by the team’s “departure from standard practice”. Adaptiveness was assessed by the team’s adherence to “standard practice”. The project teams scored as predicted by A-I theory. Aggregating a mean among the scores of the four experts, the innovator team achieved a mean score of 7, the adaptor team scored 3 and the middle team scored 5. Again, the validity of KAI is confirmed. When innovators get together, the decision (outcome) will be innovative; when adaptors get together, the decision will be adaptive. Also in line with diversity theory, the experts evaluated the middle group as offering the best project plan.

This test of criterion validity supports KAI as a valid measure of decision-making style, corroborating previous evidence for construct and content validity. Scores remain stable over time, and Kirton’s hypothesis, that balanced teams are likely to outperform teams of homogeneous adaptors or innovators on general problems, is confirmed.

Extracted from Review of Public Personnel Administration Spring 1999