Best Paper Award
Team members' confidence in each other's abilities can predict two things, says Kyle Emich MS '09, an ILR doctoral candidate in organizational behavior. It foretells both how much effort each member puts towards a group task and how much they help other group members, he said.
Additionally, whether team members view everybody in the team as necessary dictates whether those efforts actually help performance, according to the project which merited him the Best Paper Award at INGRoup, the 2011 Interdisciplinary Network of Group Researchers conference.
Held in Minneapolis, Minn., the conference drew more than 180 researchers who study groups in fields from organizational behavior to psychology to sociology to computer science.
The practical applications of the findings, Emich said, "are that managers should attempt to increase task interdependence by assigning roles to team members, or by using other means to make sure everyone feels they are important to the team."
"When people are assigned non-overlapping roles in groups it generally signals that each role is necessary for the group to perform, increasing task interdependence -- although it is not a perfect correlation," he said in an interview.
Other interventions, Emich said, "can include merely telling a group, when all members are present, that everyone is necessary for performance, explaining how each member can contribute to the group outcome, or doing a brief pre-task such as creating a group charter."
In his paper, "A Social Cognitive Investigation of Group Inefficiency," Emich says researchers should focus on perceptions of specific team members, instead of on perceptions as teams as a whole.
In an interview, he explained why.
"When you ask the group how they are doing as a whole, its answer does not necessarily incorporate all other members. For example, if I think I'm awesome, I may think the group will succeed even if I completely disregard all other group members."
"So, in order to understand the intricacies of a group, it is important to look at each group member individually and their relationship to each other group member individually. For example, I could say the group is doing well, but I could really hate one specific teammate; this could play out down the road."
Emich drew his findings from experiments measuring behavior of 70 recreational basketball players and 154 university students divided into teams of three to six members.