Maynard and NASA

Travis Maynard is working on a project with NASA examining team adaptation and resilience.

The work of faculty in the College of Business goes far beyond the classroom. Many students and alumni often do not get a glimpse of the research that happens behind the scenes and the work that significantly contributes to the lessons they prepare and the perspectives they provide. Within the college, Travis Maynard teaches courses focused on organizational behavior, team effectiveness, and leadership. His teaching experience has included undergraduate, graduate, executive MBA, as well as executive education offerings. However, regardless of the audience, Maynard places a great emphasis on experiential learning approaches built directly from his research. Within the classroom, Maynard weaves the work he does into his lessons on team effectiveness. Kaity Daley, a former student, says with confidence, “Professor Maynard challenged me to become more aware of my way of leading as well as my perspectives on the greater application of teams in different sectors. The project we were assigned allowed me to become more conscious of my leadership effectiveness and awareness of cultural differences.”

Much of the outside research work Maynard has conducted has been within healthcare organizations where he seeks to improve team dynamics with the intent of improving patient care and safety. More recently though, his has also focused on a project with NASA examining team adaptation and resilience. Getting to Mars in the next 20 years, a seemingly daunting scientific task, also has strong reliance on team resilience and adaptation. Ultimately, NASA will choose one team to execute the mission lasting for three years. During this time, teamwork is critical as the team that goes to Mars will be given more autonomy from the ground than has been the case with prior space missions in large part because of the 44-minute communication delay that will exist between ground personnel and space crew members. With this autonomy also comes a heightened need to effectively manage interpersonal relationships, adapt to any challenges that the space crew will face and being resilient in the face of such challenges. Maynard and his research colleagues performed an in-depth analysis of the available research to identify the gaps in current research and from this review provided NASA with recommendations on specific steps they should take regarding team adaptation and resilience. Additionally, Maynard and his colleagues recently submitted a proposal to conduct a research project with NASA that is focused on learning more about adaptation and how resilience develops and changes over the lifecycle of teams. Given that this proposal was recently endorsed by NASA, Maynard and his team will start the project in the fall of 2016 and will work closely with NASA over the coming years in preparing the space team for a successful mission.

“As my career has progressed, I have gravitated toward projects where I can conduct research and have practical implications with a tangible outcome for the organization and society as a whole,” says Maynard. The work he has done in healthcare has allowed him to build a foundation for his work with NASA. Although healthcare and space travel cannot be perfectly compared to one another, he has learned about team dynamics and how they function in intense and extreme environments. Maynard says it has opened his eyes. “Within these extreme contexts, there are bigger consequences for teams that do not perform well. For example, in healthcare, there are severe ramifications that are tied to team effectiveness which makes it essential that the team performs well.”

In addition to his research with healthcare and NASA, he has worked with the military to analyze team effectiveness and is currently working on some research projects involving teams in professional sports settings. Specifically, in one project, he is looking at mid-season coaching changes in Major League Baseball teams and the impact that such changes have on overall team performance.

In another project started while he was in Portugal last year as a Fulbright Scholar, Maynard and his colleagues are investigating the factors that help the team of referees perform to their best within the Portuguese soccer league. It’s unique opportunities like these that Maynard brings back to the classroom to help students learn about the cultural differences in the workplace.