Team Wisdom: Definition, Dynamics, and Applications
Tjai M. Nielsen
High Point University - Earl N. Phillips School of Business
Amy C. Edmondson
Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
This paper focuses on wisdom manifested in work teams, defined here as groups of interdependent individuals who share responsibility for specific outcomes for their organizations (Sundstrom, DeMeuse & Futrell, 1990). Understanding how wisdom applies in teams has particular urgency, considering their ubiquity in today's organizations - at every level, from executive teams to customer service and production teams, across disciplines from health care to engineering, in a seemingly endless variety of specific applications such as surgery, intercontinental flights, and emergency rescue (Edmondson, 2002, 2003; Nielsen, Sundstrom, & Halfhill, 2002).
In exploring how wisdom applies to work teams, we begin by offering a definition of team wisdom based on four inherent tensions of teamwork that must be managed to achieve effectiveness. We then offer a framework outlining and analyzing the dynamics of team wisdom. Subsequent sections apply the framework in four ways. First, we use it as a basis for organizing a review of current research and practice relevant to team wisdom. Second, we apply our framework to identify how the four inherent tensions of teamwork impact teams differently. Third, we apply it by identifying potential ways of developing team wisdom. We conclude with a discussion of potential implications for current theory and research about work teams.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 34
Keywords: teams, groups, wisdom, effectiveness
JEL Classification: M1, M10, M12working papers series
Date posted: June 22, 2006
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