Collective Identity and Learning in a Virtual Team

Collective Identity and Learning in a Virtual Team

Garry G. Burnett (George Washington University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-106-3.ch018
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This chapter introduces Media Synchronicity Theory as a means to examine the influence of technology use on the relationship between a multidimensional model of collective identity and its impact on the multidimensional team learning in virtual teams. The study was conducted in an educational setting over an academic semester. Hypotheses testing suggest that the basis for a team’s collective identity does impact team learning. The authors believe that a clearer understanding of the underlying relationships will enable academicians to improve their course offerings to provide more realistic representation of existing team tasks, technology use, and work-groups presently found in organizations.
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Due to the increased competitiveness and complexity of today’s global business environment, there appears to be two developments that are increasing in popularity. The first trend is the use of collaborative teams that span functional, geographic, temporal, and cultural boundaries (Biggs, 2000; Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2002). These virtual teams enable organizations to leverage their employees’ unique skills and experiences regardless of where workers are located. The second trend is a heightened awareness of the importance of fostering learning in organizational settings. Of particular interest with regard to fostering learning is creating an environment that encourages teams to adapt to market changes by altering their current routines (i.e., improving efficiency) or by experimenting with new procedures (i.e., employing innovative ideas). Since Van der Vegt and Bunderson (2005) found that learning teams are more efficient, have higher quality output and superior overall achievement, it is expected that these positive team outcomes might also be associated with teams that must discover new routines or processes to meet team and organizational goals. These types of team outcomes are critical to organizations, since they are fundamental to an organization’s success and they are believed by some to be a catalyst that leads to a firm’s competitive advantage (Senge, 1990).

These relationships are not the sole domain of for-profit organizations. They can also be found in academic settings. For instance, institutions of higher learning, whose students are more efficient, have high quality standards and who have higher levels of overall achievement, might have a competitive advantage when compared to other academic institutions in terms of attracting high caliber students, securing funding sources for teaching and research, and increasing recruiting from top businesses. These same universities emphasize that their use of advanced technologies will provide students with a world-class education. However, are these students better prepared to function effectively in situations that require widespread use of technology? Furthermore, will these students have the ability to adapt current processes and/or to develop new routines? For several reasons, this is not necessarily true. First, new entrants into the workforce may be ill- prepared to operate successfully within teams that interact primarily through Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Although group projects are commonly used in many college and university courses, their focus has been limited to traditional face-to-face interactions and not on the use of multiple ICTs that are prevalent in today’s firms. While this approach may facilitate course delivery, it does little to introduce students to the “new way” of working in modern organizations. Second, the tasks (i.e., student assignments) that are being performed tend to be limited in scope and are designed to facilitate assessing objective outcomes (e.g., presentations, reports, and examinations). Given the current complexity of the marketplace, these tasks may not challenge students to extend themselves beyond rote learning.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Exploitation: Teams that refine processes, improve efficiency, and concentrate on execution (March, 1991).

Team Virtuality: Consists of three components: the degree that teams use virtual tools to coordinate and communicate; information value; and synchronicity (Kirkman & Mathieu, 2005). The first dimension is the reliance on virtual tools, and refers to the extent which teams use virtual technologies (i.e., e-mail, video conferencing, chat, document sharing, etc.) to coordinate work activities and to communicate when compared to face-to-face interaction. The second dimension, informational value, consists of communication and/or data that is valuable to a team’s effectiveness such as the technology’s capability to transmit rich information (e.g., nonverbal cues such as facial expressions and body-language) as well as the content of the data itself. At issue is how important that information is to the success of the virtual team. The final dimension is synchronicity, which concerns how well the team is able to support simultaneous communication (e.g., face-to-face interactions and technologies such as video conferencing and instant messaging accommodate interactive immediate exchanges).

Exploration: Teams that experiment, take risks, and innovate (March, 1991).

Collective Identity: Answers the question “who are we?” Scholars generally agree that it is a multidimensional concept (Ashmore et al., 2004) comprised of an individual’s perception that their self-image is based on the various social groups or categories with which he or she views him or herself as belonging.

Cognitive Dimension of Collective Identity: Individuals can either evoke their self-concept when they appreciate they share similar values with a social group, or change their beliefs to become more similar to the social group (Pratt, 1998). This categorization is the basis for in-group and out-group distinctions, and is the means by which an individual cognitively places him or herself within a social group.

Affective Dimension of Collective Identity: Provides a feeling of connectedness or shared substance between an individual and a social group.

Media Synchronicity: Describes the extent to which particular communications media engender a sense that all participants are working on the same content or activity at the same time (Dennis & Valacich, 1999; Dennis, Valacich, Speier, & Morris, 1998).

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Michael Beyerlein
Janet Salmons, Lynn Wilson
Janet Salmons, Lynn Wilson
Chapter 1
Frances Deepwell
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E-Research Collaboration, Conflict and Compromise
Chapter 2
Susanne Croasdaile
In the world of education, many occasions necessitate interorganizational collaboration. Geographical distance and time constraints are challenges... Sample PDF
Inter-Organizational E-Collaboration in Education
Chapter 3
Kumiko Aoki
This chapter discusses cultural differences in educational practices of the East and West. In East Asian countries, where Confucian philosophy has... Sample PDF
Cultural Issues in Global Collaborative Education
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Ken Stevens
The Internet and an expanding range of technologies have enabled small schools in rural communities in Atlantic Canada to collaborate in addressing... Sample PDF
The Development of Collaborative Structures to Support Virtual Classes in Small Schools
Chapter 5
Christine Marrett
Information communication technologies (ICTs) have facilitated institutional collaboration in distance education. Based on the study, Institutional... Sample PDF
Experiences in Collaboration in Distance Education from the Caribbean, Looking Beyond Electronic
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Neli Maria Mengalli
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Collaboration and Networks: Basis for the Management Based on Knowledge in Education
Chapter 7
Niki Lambropoulos, Panagiotis Kampylis, Sofia Papadimitriou, Marianna Vivitsou, Alexander Gkikas
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Hybrid Synergy for Virtual Knowledge Working
Chapter 8
Chijioke J. Evoh
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Collaborative Partnerships and the Application of ICTs in Secondary Education in South Africa
Chapter 9
Sandra J. Chrystal
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Chapter 10
Tine Köhler, Michael Berry
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Creating Synergy for Inter-Cultural Learning
Chapter 11
Iris C. Fischlmayr
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A Training Design for Behavioral Factors in Virtual Multicultural Teams
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Jennifer V. Lock, Petrea Redmond
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Back to Basics: Electronic Collaboration in the Education Sector
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Elizabeth DePoy
This chapter presents and analyzes the scholarly basis and empirical work that resulted in the development of Techscape, the application of... Sample PDF
Designing University Techscapes
Chapter 16
Kathy Lynch, Aleksej Heinze, Eljse Scott
The barriers to global collaboration of yesteryear include country boundaries and time zones. Today, however, in a world where communication is... Sample PDF
Scholarly Collaboration Across Time Zones
Chapter 17
Christine Aikens Wolfe, Cheryl North-Coleman, Shari Wallis Williams, Denise Amos, Glorianne Bradshaw, Toby Emert
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Stepping into the Role of Professional Writer
Chapter 18
Garry G. Burnett
This chapter introduces Media Synchronicity Theory as a means to examine the influence of technology use on the relationship between a... Sample PDF
Collective Identity and Learning in a Virtual Team
Chapter 19
Janet Salmons
Social constructivism is an established educational theory based on the principle that learners and teachers co-construct knowledge through social... Sample PDF
E-Social Constructivism and Collaborative E-Learning
Chapter 20
Jeffrey Mok
Technological artifacts such as computers and mobile electronic devices have dramatically increased our learning interactions with machines. Coupled... Sample PDF
Social and Distributed Cognition in Collaborative Learning Contexts
Chapter 21
Qing Li
Increasingly, educators in a range of venues and institutions (e.g., K-12 schools, post secondary institutions, training facilities) are being... Sample PDF
Modeling the Model for Distributed Learning
Chapter 22
Kathryn Dixon
This chapter is the result of an investigation into the capacity of an electronic portfolio (e-folio) to promote reflection and collaboration in a... Sample PDF
Capacity of an Electronic Portfolio to Promote Professionalism, Collaboration and Accountability in Educational Leadership
Chapter 23
Robert J. Redmon Jr.
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E-Mail Reflection Groups as Collaborative Action Research
Chapter 24
Janet L. Holland
This chapter reports on a mixed study dealing with the impact of integrating student peer mentor facilitators into online discussions in an effort... Sample PDF
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Chapter 25
Rosemarie Reynolds, Michael T. Brannick
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Linda L. Larson, Paul Boyd-Batstone, Carole Cox
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Chapter 27
Andre L. Araujo
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Instrumental and Social Influences on Adoption of Collaborative Technologies in Global Virtual Teams
Chapter 28
Kenneth David Strang
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Collaborative Synergy and Leadership in E-Business
Chapter 29
Gilliean Lee
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Overview on Information Systems and Tools for Collaborative Enterprise: Business Impacts and Managerial Issues
Chapter 30
Apivut Chakuthip, Yvonne Brunetto, Rod Farr-Wharton, Sheryl Ramsay
This chapter uses the structural and relational dimension of Social Capital Theory as the lens for examining the factors affecting a Small and... Sample PDF
Trust, Social Networks and Electronic Commerce Adoption
Chapter 31
Bolanle A. Olaniran
Trust and relational development represents a critical challenge in online collaboration groups. Often the problem is attributed to several factors... Sample PDF
A Proposition for Developing Trust and Relational Synergy in International e-Collaborative Groups
Chapter 32
Peter Rittgen
The increasing complexity of products and services encourages more and more companies to form collaborative networks. As these companies are... Sample PDF
Supporting Inter-Business Collaboration via Contract Negotiation and Enactment
Chapter 33
Larry R. Irons
This chapter reviews research in distributed work, relating it to the way organizations manage collaboration between home-based customer support... Sample PDF
The Limits of Anytime, Anywhere Customer Support
Chapter 34
Tobias Müller-Prothmann
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KMmaster® for Collaboration and Knowledge Management
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Steven Jeddeloh
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Ultimate Performance in a Highly Functioning Team
Chapter 36
Theresa Rich
This case study presents the work done to develop and execute the global vision for a 24/7 matrix organization within a major multinational... Sample PDF
Globalizing a Function within a Company
Chapter 37
R. Todd Stephens
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Mairi Stewart Kershaw
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An Evaluation of ‘Linking for a Change'
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Lynn Wilson
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Elena Corradini
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James L. Smith
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Collaboration through Municipal Motivators
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Keith Baker
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Understanding the Dialectic Relationship between Intraand Inter-Organizational Cooperation
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Technology Enhanced Collaborative Leadership Development
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Lessons Learned from the NASA Astrobiology Institute
Chapter 50
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Online Collaborative Integration and Recommendations for Future Research
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