Extemporaneous Coordination in Specialist Teams: The Familiarity Complementarity

Forthcoming, Organization Science

46 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2019 Last revised: 6 Feb 2020

See all articles by Kenny Ching

Kenny Ching

University College London - Department of Management Science and Innovation; affiliation not provided to SSRN

Enrico Forti

University College London - UCL School of Management

Evan Rawley

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management

Date Written: November 21, 2019

Abstract

Team production is ubiquitous in the economy, but managing teams effectively remains a challenge for many organizations. This paper studies how familiarity amongst teammates influences the performance of specialist teams, relative to non-specialist teams. Applying theories of team production to contexts where team members coordinate interdependent activities extemporaneously, we develop predictions about factors that shift the marginal returns to specialization along two dimensions of familiarity: social familiarity and functional familiarity. We test our hypotheses in the context of DOTA2, a major e-sports game where, in some formats, players are exogenously assigned to five-person teams. After analysing nearly 6.5 million matches, we find that specialist teams are relatively more successful when members are more socially and functionally familiar with one another. The results suggest that the “plug and play” perspective on specialist teams is incomplete; rather, specialization and familiarity are complements in dynamic environments where team members coordinate extemporaneously.

Keywords: Organization, Familiarity, Specialists, Teams, Performance, E-Sports

JEL Classification: L83, Z2, J00

Suggested Citation

Ching, Kenny and Ching, Kenny and Forti, Enrico and Rawley, Evan, Extemporaneous Coordination in Specialist Teams: The Familiarity Complementarity (November 21, 2019). Forthcoming, Organization Science, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3491456 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3491456

Kenny Ching

affiliation not provided to SSRN

University College London - Department of Management Science and Innovation ( email )

Gower Street
London, England WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

Enrico Forti

University College London - UCL School of Management ( email )

One Canada Square
London, E14 5AA
United Kingdom

Evan Rawley (Contact Author)

University of Minnesota - Twin Cities - Carlson School of Management ( email )

19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

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