Media Variety and Task Complexity Coping in Teams: Theory Development and Empirical Analysis
MIS Quarterly, Forthcoming
29 Pages Posted: 27 Sep 2012
Date Written: September 26, 2012
Much of the research on electronic communication media so far has been characterized by a focus on the impact that specific media may have on individuals and teams; as opposed to the impact that multiple media, when used in combination, may have on individuals and teams. We contribute to addressing this gap by developing a new theory of media variety and team performance, which we tested in the context of teams engaged in new product development. Data from 290 new product development teams in 66 organizations located in Northeastern United States were analyzed. The results of the analysis suggest that a high degree of electronic communication media variety facilitates the implementation of task complexity coping mechanisms, such as coordination activities, in new product development teams. This in turn seems to lead to significant gains in team efficiency and effectiveness in those teams. The results also suggest that while electronic communication media variety plays an important facilitation role, by facilitating coordination activities, it has a much less pronounced direct effect on team efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, in the absence of task complexity coping mechanisms, such as coordination activities, a high degree of media variety may not be very useful for teams carrying out complex tasks such as new product development.
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