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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1299260
 
 

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Antecedents and Consequences of Mutual Knowledge in Teams


Sinan Aral


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Erik Brynjolfsson


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Marshall W. Van Alstyne


Boston University - Department of Management Information Systems; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School

November, 10 2008


Abstract:     
A tension exists between two well-established streams of literature on the performance of teams. One stream contends that teams with diverse backgrounds, social structures, knowledge, and experience function more effectively because they bring novel information to bear on problems that cannot be solved by groups of homogeneous individuals. In contrast, the literature on mutual knowledge contends that shared information and experience is essential to effective communication, trust, understanding and coordination among team members. Furthermore, several distinct antecedents of mutual information and knowledge have been hypothesized, making it difficult to manage information overlap in teams. In this paper, we use a unique data set of observed email content from 1382 executive recruiting teams and detailed accounting data on their productivity to examine both the antecedents and performance effects of shared versus diverse information. We find clear evidence of an inverted-U shaped relationship between mutual information and team productivity. A significant amount of information overlap among team members is associated with higher performance while extremes of too little or too much mutual information hamper performance. We also find that geographic dispersion and social network distance are strong predictors of mutual knowledge failures, while demographic dissimilarity and organizational distance do not predict the degree of mutual information in our data. Our work helps bring together the divergent streams of literature on mutual knowledge, information diversity, and the management of team performance.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 39

Keywords: Mutual Knowledge, Diversity, Social Networks, Demography, Geographic Dispersion, Information Distance, Teams, Performance

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Date posted: November 14, 2008  

Suggested Citation

Aral, Sinan and Brynjolfsson, Erik and Van Alstyne, Marshall W., Antecedents and Consequences of Mutual Knowledge in Teams (November, 10 2008). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1299260 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1299260

Contact Information

Sinan Aral (Contact Author)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
77 Massachusetts Ave.
E62-416
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
Erik Brynjolfsson
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )
E53-313
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-4319 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://digital.mit.edu/erik
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Marshall W. Van Alstyne
Boston University - Department of Management Information Systems ( email )
595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-358-3571 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://smgapps.bu.edu/mgmt_new/profiles/VanAlstyneMarshall.html
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School ( email )
Center for Digital Business
5 Cambridge Center - NE25, 7th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
617-253-0768 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://web.mit.edu/marshall/www/home.html
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References:  71
Citations:  1

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