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Adapting Resources

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There is a growing body of evidence that indicates organizations and teams are most successful when they are able to operate flexibly and manage adaptively.

In the development sector, there have been several case studies that demonstrate the potential of adaptive programming as a development approach. For example, findings from an evaluation of more than 100 grant-funded dialogue projects supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) underscore the importance of adaptive management and planning for change in dynamic contexts. The review found that successful projects tended to use adaptive management practices, which included leveraging connections with communications, local knowledge about norms and customs, iterative decision-making and flexibility in design, during implementation. Overall, the study found that the capacity to reflect, learn, and change course was a key factor in projects’ success.

The literature also emphasizes the important role that reflection plays in having an effective adaptive practice. Researchers at Harvard Business School have found that reflection on past experience is what teaches individuals the most. Recent discoveries in the health sector, specifically in the field of neuroscience, further support the need for group reflection within organizations. Research shows that reflecting as a group builds mutual understanding that aids collaboration and evidence-informed decision-making.

Adapting is an enabler in the following ways:

  • Adapting is highly related to individual personalities, which in turn drive office culture and institutional appetite for change.
  • Adapting is carried out most effectively by individuals who have “growth mindsets” rather than “fixed mindsets,” are inquisitive by nature, trusting, and have flexible competencies and skill sets.
  • Adapting is facilitated by group reflection, which builds mutual understanding and shared trust that aids collaboration and increased evidence-informed decision-making.
  • Teams that apply more data-driven and adaptive leadership practices perform better compared to those which focus less on those practice.

To read the full summary of the literature on adapting, see our CLA Literature Review. Scroll down to view articles and cases on adapting.

Adapting definitions

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See below for a sample of research and cases, and search the library for a full selection.