Technology-Mediated Collaboration, Shared Mental Model and Task Performance

Technology-Mediated Collaboration, Shared Mental Model and Task Performance

Hayward P. Andres (North Carolina A&T State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 18
DOI: 10.4018/joeuc.2012010104
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Abstract

This study takes a direct observation research approach to examine how the impact of collaboration mode on team productivity and process satisfaction is mediated by shared mental model. Team cognition and social impact theories are integrated to provide a framework for explaining how technology-mediated collaboration constrains or enhances team shared mental model development and its subsequent impact on task outcomes. Partial least squares analysis revealed that technology-mediated collaboration impacts shared mental model development. The results also demonstrate that timely and accurate development of shared mental model facilitates increases in both productivity and team process satisfaction. Direct observation of team process behaviors suggests that collaboration modes differ not only in their impact on communication facilitation but efficacy-based, motivational, and social influence factors (e.g., self-efficacy and team-efficacy, perceived salience and credibility of contributions, social influence on action, etc.) as well. Shared mental model development requires quality communication among team members that are motivated to participate by a positive team climate that promotes idea convergence.
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Introduction

Organizations are under constant pressure to leverage expertise both locally and distributed throughout multiple sites (Elsbach & Hargadon, 2006; Williams & Rains, 2007). Consequently, companies are increasingly turning to a new business model, the virtual organization, where virtual teams are constructed with individuals that 1) are geographical dispersed, 2) are linked via collaboration technologies, and 3) collaborate across time and space in synchronous and/or asynchronous mode (Garton & Wegryn, 2006). Unfortunately, team collaboration in “virtual” settings have been shown to exhibit difficulties in participation, idea generation, information exchange, shared interpretation, and coordinated effort (e.g., Blaskovich, 2008; Chidambaram & Tung, 2005; Coulson, Olfman, Ryan, & Shayo, 2010; Furumo, 2009; He, Butler, & King, 2007; Hinds & Mortenson, 2005; Kanawattanachal & Yoo, 2007).

A review of the technology-mediated collaboration literature reveals a shortage of studies that have investigated higher order information processing and cognitive factors such as team shared mental model and distributed expertise utilization (Hasty, Massey, & Brown, 2006; Kanawattanachai & Yoo, 2007; Majchrzak, Beath, Lim, & Chin, 2005; Miranda & Saunders, 2003). This study addresses that shortage by using an observational research approach to examine the mediating effects of shared mental model on task outcomes by using three trained observer ratings of task-related (e.g., task requirements, strategy, task status) and affect-related (e.g., expressions of confusion, conflict, solution confidence) behaviors and communication exchanges. Here, a direct observation assessment of group sense-making of information exchanged and interactions is used to assess their impact on team cognition, productivity and team process satisfaction.

Moskowitz (1990) noted that observability of a behavior refers to the external manifestations (e.g., displayed confusion, mismatch in assumptions, or conflicting expectations) of the specific trait measured. For example, a team member may perceive that they have shared mental model but inconsistent behaviors and contribution may show otherwise. And, it is the outward observable behaviors that are interpreted by team members which subsequently dictate assumptions and actions. Consequently, one can directly and empirically observe the shared mental model being developed through progressive elaboration because it takes place during team task execution. Moreover, it produces knowledge objects or artifacts (e.g., concepts, if-then propositions, causal diagrams) which dictate interpretation which then generates manifested observable behaviors aimed at task completion.

In this study, the following research questions are addressed:

  • (1)

    What observable behaviors are indicative of shared mental model construction?

  • (2)

    How does technology-mediated collaboration impact behavior associated with shared mental model construction?

  • (3)

    Through what mechanisms do shared mental model facilitate productivity and process satisfaction?

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