Advances in Health Sciences Education
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While undesirable, unexpected disruptions offer unique opportunities to enact adaptive expertise. For adaptive expertise to flourish, individuals and teams must embrace both efficiency and adaptation. While some industries do it readily, others continue to struggle with the tension between efficiency and adaptation, particularly when otherwise stable situations are unexpectedly disrupted. For instance, in healthcare settings, the efficiency mandate for strict compliance with scopes of practice can deter teams from using the adaptive strategy of making their members interchangeable. Yet, interchangeability has been hinted as a key capacity of today’ teams that are required to navigate fluid team structures. Because interchangeability – as an adaptive strategy – can generate antagonistic reactions, it has not been well studied in fluid teams. Thus, in this exploratory qualitative study we sought to gain insights into how interchangeability manifests when fluid teams from five different contexts (healthcare, emergency services, orchestras, military, and business) deal with disruptive events. According to our participants, successful interchangeability was possible when people knew how to work within one’s role while being aware of their teammates’ roles. However, interchangeability included more than just role switching. Interchangeability took various forms and was most successful when teams capitalized on the procedural, emotional, and social dimensions of their work. To reflect this added complexity, we refer to interchangeability in fluid teams as Ecological Interchangeability. We suggest that ecological interchangeability may become a desired feature in the training of adaptive expertise in teams, if its underlying properties and enabling mechanisms are more fully understood.