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The science behind team discovery

Team cohesion is one of the hallmarks of a talent optimized organization. But building a cohesive team is easier said than done. You need the proper tools at your disposal to first understand what type of team you have—and only then can you begin to optimize it.

Enter Team Types. When you understand your Team Type, you can identify blind spots, strengths, and strategic emphasis—and then take action accordingly.

But you may be wondering: How did we get here? Let’s dive into the science behind the concept:

What are the origins of Team Types?

In 2019, we wanted to know what types of teams existed among client organizations. Through a large-scale empirical study, using PI Behavioral Assessment results from 125,000+ employees across 20,000+ teams, we found evidence for nine distinct Team Types. These were based on the behavioral make-up of their members.

The characteristics of these teams are based on the pioneering work of William Marston and his model of workplace personality and behavior. That same work forms the foundation for the four primary factors of the the BA, a psychometrically sound and valid tool for personnel selection and development. At its core, the BA describes individual behavior in the workplace context

How do Team Types work?

A team’s type is based upon the overall behavioral emphasis of its members. First, we consider the specific behavioral pattern of each team member. Factors receive rank scores based on their value. We then place the sums of these ranks into individual quadrant scores based upon Cameron & Quinn’s interpretation of the Competing Values Framework, a popular tool for understanding organizational culture.

We consider the scores in aggregate, with Team Type determined by the overall emphasis of the team. Quadrants with at least 30% behavioral alignment across the team are considered to be the most descriptive of the team’s culture.

How are individuals plotted across quadrants?

To determine team member plot points, we convert everyone’s A:C and B:D Factor Combinations into percentile ranks, representing how high or low the Factor Combination value is with respect to all other values. For example, an A:C value of 0.6 is in the 59th percentile, so 59% of all possible A:C values are at or are lower than 0.6. This allows us to see where team members lie with respect to Team Type, and can help to identify both individual and team-level strengths and blind spots. A:C percentile ranks are plotted on the horizontal axis, and B:D percentile ranks are plotted on the vertical axis.

What are the origins of team strategic emphasis?

PI’s strategic and team objectives are based upon the Quinn & Rohrbaugh Competing Values Framework, a popular tool for describing organizational effectiveness and culture. In developing these objectives, PI’s Science team conducted an extensive literature review and test development process. The goal was to ensure that the objectives were sound: representative of their theorized quadrants, empirically related to the four primary factors of the PI Behavioral Assessment, and valid in defining strategic direction.

The process involved subject matter experts from numerous organizations and experience levels, as well as a number of field tests and pilots, before launching the final list of objectives and scoring methodology.

How does team strategic emphasis work?

First, the team’s leader selects a subset of the 20 team objectives in the PI software. These selections produce team quadrant scores. Scores are based on the percentage distribution of alignment across the four quadrants. We convert these percentages into 0-3 emphasis scores. Quadrants with at least 30% alignment receive a score of 3. 

We visualize strategic pursuit through a series of 0 to 5 purple arcs surrounding each Team Discovery quadrant. The more arcs associated with a quadrant, the higher that quadrant’s strategic emphasis with regard to the team’s objectives.

How does it all come together?

While Team Type tells us about a team’s culture, values, and natural proclivities, strategic emphasis tells us about the team’s goals and objectives. The combination of Team Types and strategic emphasis can answer questions such as: 

  • How can we leverage our team’s natural strengths? 
  • Where are our gaps when it comes to achieving our objectives? 
  • What does each team member bring to the table with respect to these strengths and gaps? 

The PI Team Discovery tool uses both theoretical and empirical scientific findings to produce insights and recommendation actions you can use to optimize your team’s cohesion and performance.

Would you like help from our team to facilitate a Team Discovery session and help build an action plan? Reach out to your PI Certified Partner or consultant.


Ali is the lead scientist at PI. A turkey bit her head when she was a kid and now she's terrified of birds!

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