Collaboration dynamics in virtual innovation teams : a longitudinal social network analysis




Provost, Shannon Marie

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There is a need for practical wisdom around innovative behaviors in modern organizations, in which online collaboration supports the creation of value and knowledge. Virtual teams – a strategy for innovation used increasingly in organizations – face challenges of knowledge integration and coordination across time and space. Collaborative structures and communication patterns that distinguish thriving virtual innovation teams are not well defined. With this dissertation, we explored how collaborative structures of virtual teams change over time and considered the extent to which these dynamics may impact innovation processes and performance. This longitudinal study of eleven virtual teams in the context of a health care system design project seeks new theoretical insights about innovation in distributed groups. Our primary data were collected from digital archives of project email correspondence over twenty-three months. We used social network analysis to observe structures and interactions in team email communication networks. We examined team centrality, structural dynamics, and participation equality as potential drivers of virtual innovation team outcomes, also considering how distinctive innovation process phases (e.g., design, testing, implementation) during the innovation team lifespan moderated these relationships. We found partial support for the six hypotheses tested. As predicted, participation equality was positively associated with work group performance and structural dynamics was positively associated with radical innovation. Contrary to what we predicted, team centrality was positively associated with performance and innovation. We observed interesting variation in these relationships across four innovation process phases. This research contributes to what is known about the temporality of virtual innovation teams and more generally about virtual team performance. Results from this study could inform the design and management of future virtual innovation teams and the ecosystems in which they are embedded.


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