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Table 1 Features of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) described as team characteristics [1, 3]

From: Healthcare teams as complex adaptive systems: understanding team behaviour through team members’ perception of interpersonal interaction

1. Team members act autonomously guided by internalized basic rules
 Each team member can act in an autonomous way, guided by basic internalized rules. These rules can be expressed as instincts, constructs
2. Team members’ interactions are non-linear
 Each team member can act autonomously but the actions have an effect on other team members (and vice versa). This is called the interdependence of the team members. These interactions encompass an exchange of information. An important aspect of the interactions is their non-linearity: small inputs may have large effects and vice versa.
3. The team has a history and is sensitive to initial conditions
 The non-linear effects observed in a team result from the modifying influence of initial conditions on the interactions between components. As a result of evolution in the system, the ‘initial conditions’ for future interactions will be different. As such, a team has a history and a memory, which means that changed conditions are ‘remembered’ by the system.
4. Interactions between team members can produce unpredictable behaviour
 As the interactions can cause non-linear effects, it is impossible to always predict the behaviour resulting from the interactions. Secondly, since the internalized rules are not necessarily equal for all components, the influencing factors for a cause-effect mechanism are not always clear.
5. Interactions between team members can generate new behaviour
 A team can display behaviours that cannot be understood by the characteristics of the individual team members.
6. A team is an open system and interacts with its environment
 Teams are connected with their environment in different ways. Some of the internalized rules come from the environment; if these rules change, the team changes. As such, the emergent behaviours of teams can be seen as adaptations to the environmental conditions, also called ‘self-organisation’. This self-organisation is informed by feedback loops by which the environment feeds the outcomes of the team’s actions back into the system. Next, depending on the scale we use, the environment may be part of the team or act as environment. As such, the borders of a team are not fixed but can open or close as a response to interactions with the environment. Finally, the environment consists of teams as well and they all influence each other. A team and its environment co-evolve during this interaction.
7. Attractors shape the team functioning
 The actions and interactions of team members are influenced by a set of basic rules as described earlier. Rules push a team member towards a certain action. As a mirror image, attractors attract team members towards a certain action. The trajectory of a team (i.e. the usual pattern of behaviour) is for a great deal determined by its attractors. The precise behaviour of a team on a precise moment is still unpredictable but the ‘usual’ behaviour will always incline towards the attractors.