Investigating Team Networks

Science and Technology @ UCSB

In the office, the lab and the field, teams are now the basic unit of productivity. Work has become complex enough to require a wide variety of skills and expertise, so organizations increasingly rely on teams to tackle challenges. However, the growing role of teamwork in the modern world begs a question: What factors contribute to team performance?Several studies have explored this issue, often focusing on individual personality traits that promote team performance. But team members’ proficiencies only establish the potential for their output. They constrain, rather than define, the actual performance.
Researchers at UC Santa Barbara decided to delve further into the dynamics of a successful team in a study now published in the journal PLOS ONE. What’s more, they’ve developed theories about how team managers might be able to leverage these factors to improve productivity and overall experience.
“Many of us are interested in team performance,” said co-author Young Ji Kim, an assistant professor of communication at UC Santa Barbara who studies group collaboration. “How to make teams perform better, more effectively, and understand some factors that contribute to improving team performance and processes.”
Lead author Victor Amelkin, a former computer science doctoral student at UC Santa Barbara, collaborated with the university’s Omid Askarisichani and Ambuj Singh, as well as MIT’s Thomas Malone, to study the dynamics of teamwork. The group used data collected in 2014 on the interactions within four-person teams as they completed a series of tasks over the course of an hour. After each task, the researchers had awarded the teams a score which reflected the overall quality of their output.
Amelkin and his colleagues analyzed the team members’ communication primarily based on chat message timestamps and senders. They modeled interactions as a network where a connection between one individual and another represented how intensively one person communicated with the other.

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