Rethinking Team Boundaries

44 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2016

See all articles by Mark Mortensen

Mark Mortensen

INSEAD - Organisational Behaviour

Martine Haas

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department

Date Written: September 20, 2016


Boundedness – the distinction between members and non-members – has long been a central defining feature of a team. In this perspective paper, we start by discussing classic conceptualizations of team boundaries, which emphasize the importance of boundary clarity. Yet many teams are more fluid, more overlapping and more dispersed − and consequently their boundaries are less clear − than ever before. We review recent literature that begins to illuminate the changing nature of team boundaries, and argue that fluidity, overlap, and dispersion have important implications for teams through their effects on members’ shared identity and mutual understanding. We propose that today’s teams can be usefully characterized as tightly versus loosely bounded, rather than as clearly bounded by definition, and conclude by examining the implications of the changing nature of team boundaries for future theoretical and empirical research on teams.

Keywords: Teams; Boundaries; Boundedness; Global; Virtual; Fluid; Overlapping [Teams/Groups]

Suggested Citation

Mortensen, Mark and Haas, Martine, Rethinking Team Boundaries (September 20, 2016). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2016/64/OBH/ACGRE, Available at SSRN: or

Mark Mortensen (Contact Author)

INSEAD - Organisational Behaviour ( email )

Boulevard de Constance
77305 Fontainebleau Cedex

Martine Haas

University of Pennsylvania - Management Department ( email )

The Wharton School
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6370
United States

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