This article will be organized as follows: in the first section, I will introduce the phenomenon of globally distributed collaboration, or what I term e-collaboration, to point out the significance of a new working structure—global virtual teams. Next, I will present the research gaps that are identified between cross-cultural management, intercultural communication, and CMC to provide concrete background to the phenomenon. Third, I will highlight the potential cultural impacts on e-collaboration. Fourth, I will provide a conceptual framework of building intercultural communication competencies, with suggestions on how to manage the cultural differences in global virtual teams. Finally, I will conclude the article by providing some managerial and theoretical implications of e-collaboration.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Intercultural Communication Competence: The skills to negotiate mutual meanings, rules, and positive outcomes as well as be equipped with three basic competencies—cognitive, affective, and behavioral.
Collaboration: Collaboration occurs through a purposive relationship when there is a desire to solve a problem, or to create or discover something within a set of constraints” (Schrage, 1990, p 36).
Low Context: Mass of information is bested in the explicit code (Hall, 1976).
High Context: Most of the information is in the physical context or internalized in the person. (Hall, 1976).
Computer Mediated Communication (CMC): The process whereby messages are electronically transmitted from senders to receivers in both asynchronous (e.g.. e-mail, discussion forums, etc.) and synchronous (Internet relay chat, videoconferencing, etc.) settings (Elton, 1982; Olaniran, 1994).
Globally Distributed Collaboration: Distributed collaboration implies that participants are geographically dispersed and using computer-mediated communication technologies and the concept “global” highlights the presence of individuals from different cultural backgrounds.
Global Virtual Teams: Groups with members who are (1) culturally diverse, (2) organizationally and geographically dispersed, and (3) use electronic communication when collaborating.
Culture: One of the earliest and most widely cited definitions of culture is “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by a man as a member of society” (Tylor, 1871, p.1).