Using Adaption-Innovation in Teaching, Service, and Research at ISU

A-I theory has helped me understand my students and their success in new ways.
– Arthur Lloyd Sherwood

I have been able to incorporate A-I theory and practice into three areas of my professional life at ISU: Teaching, Service, and Research.


As a management professor teaching courses in organizational behavior, management practices, and strategy, A-I theory fits well when content involves diversity, leadership, teaming, and problem solving. For example, diversity is an important factor for team building, and leaders must learn to leverage and manage the diversity of their teams in order to successfully solve problems. A-I theory provides a framework for managing diversity, broadening this concept to embrace the different cognitive styles that must be accommodated in team-building activities.

With members of the Leadership Development Institute and the Gongaware Center, we created a workshop for the Financial Services Industry focusing upon Problem Solving Leadership, using much of work as foundational material. I have been able to use this workshop successfully inside the classroom at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The material significantly enhances traditional leadership and teaming theory and practice and allows us to bring cutting edge ideas to the classroom.

Finally, A-I theory has helped me understand my students and their success in new ways. Different students prefer different class structures, and these preferences are evident when assignments are given and assessments are made. When gaps are found between the students and the task or between students and me, my knowledge of A-I has helped me not only to teach coping behavior but also remove some material that is not important for learning. The use of A-I theory has also prompted me to investigate multiple issues related to diversity and approaches to teaching (see below under Research).


In addition to teaching in the classroom, we have been able to design a practical seminar aimed toward managers with a focus on Problem Solving Leadership. We have delivered the seminar four times to managers, MBAs, and advanced undergraduates. Each has been well received. Additionally, in partnership with Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and the Lee Iacocca Institute for Future Global Leaders, I have delivered the program to executives and managers from several multi-national companies.

At a personal level, A-I has helped me understand how to contribute more successfully to committees and task forces at ISU. Knowing certain problems need a more adaptive or a more innovative approach helps me understand when to turn off/on my natural preferences and when to engage in coping behavior. It has also allowed me to understand why certain people behave as they do at these meetings and in their problem solving, thus removing a great deal of stress from me.


Based on my practical experience in the classroom, I am pursuing a line of research that examines how A-I impacts learning and other variables in the teaching environment. Being part of the Faculty Learning Community on A-I and working with other scholars at ISU have encouraged me to develop this agenda actively. Present studies focus on examining levels of trust between individuals in relation to their gaps in scores on the A-I inventory; understanding how to design a problem in Problem Based Learning by taking into account diversity in student cognitive style; how these different designs and styles in PBL are related to self-efficacy, satisfaction, and motivation, and how cognitive style specifically impacts one’s preferred approach to different steps in problem solving. Finally, a manuscript on Problem Solving Leadership has been oriented toward practitioners and is currently under review.

Dr Arthur Lloyd Sherwood, assistant professor, Organizational Department in the College of Business, Indiana State University. 2004