Selecting Appropriate Communication Tools to Support Teams' Creative Processes in SMEs

Selecting Appropriate Communication Tools to Support Teams' Creative Processes in SMEs

Hélder Fanha Martins (Lisbon Polytechnic Institute - Lisbon School of Accounting and Administration, Portugal) and Maria João Ferro (Lisbon Polytechnic Institute - Lisbon School of Accounting and Administration, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-892-5.ch014
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Accomplishing creative tasks collaboratively is particularly problematic when team members who are attempting to achieve the creative results are geographically dispersed throughout the globe in a virtual team. Therefore, sound communication tools are needed to ensure communication does not hamper team creativity. This chapter highlights the communication tools available for doing creative work, offering a short analysis of the most relevant synchronous and asynchronous communication tools. Some rules and tips are given to allow for a better choice of the communication tools to use according to both the nature of the team and the work it is performing in terms of creative processes in SMEs. This chapter also presents how knowledge experts and knowledge-based companies consider whether it would be any benefit to apply Web 2.0 in their organisational architecture to strengthen collaboration.
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The following background defines what a virtual team is and its importance for the integration of IT in SMEs. It explains the collaborative process, with the knowledge workers being at its center. The term virtual is fairly new and is associated with concepts such as the virtual knowledge network, the virtual organization, the virtual team, the virtual community of practice, and the virtual workplace, to name just a few. Basically, the virtual team is defined as a group of knowledge workers who are geographically dispersed but not necessarily distributed across expansive geographic locations. They are working together toward a common purpose and goal and using electronic communication as their primary medium. The virtual team is interested in explicit and tacit knowledge management using integrated technologies from synchronous and asynchronous communication, knowledge management functionalities, discussion forums, and much more. The virtual team may have little or no face-to-face contact. Therefore, it must build a foundation of teamwork and trust for collaboration to truly happen and for performance to be achieved. Among the characteristics of a virtual team is the type. Fisher and Fisher

(2001) define the type based on three criteria: time, space, and culture:

  • 1.

    Time refers to when people work. Virtual team members may be assigned different hours, different shifts and different days to work. They may also work at the same moment but in a different time zone.

  • 2.

    Space refers to where people work. Virtual team workers may work in close proximity to one another or be quite remote. They may share the same office or a different one on the same floor or another floor in a given building. Or they may also be located in different buildings, in different cities, and even in different countries.

  • 3.

    Culture refers to how people work together--the ways in which they deal with each other. Elements of culture include languages, races, nationalities, professions, and education, as well as religious, political, social, and economic factors. In a way, even gender can influence culture.

For their part, Duarte and Snyder (2001) present seven types of virtual teams based on boundaries and membership:

  • 1.

    The virtual corporation lacks clear boundaries with the organization and has a fluid membership; that is, members come and go as needed.

  • 2.

    The parallel team has clear boundaries and distinct membership and works in the short term to develop recommendations for an improvement in a process or system.

  • 3.

    The project or product development team has a fluid membership with clear boundaries and a defined customer, technical requirement, and output.

  • 4.

    The work or production team has a distinct membership and clear boundaries, where members perform regular and ongoing work, usually in one functional area.

  • 5.

    The service team has a distinct membership and aids in ongoing customer and network activity.

  • 6.

    The management team has a distinct membership and works on a regular basis to lead corporate activities.

  • 7.

    The action team has a fluid or distinct membership. It deals with immediate action and emergency situations.

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