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Ability Dispersion and Team Performance

Author

Listed:
  • Sander Hoogendoorn

    (CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, the Netherlands)

  • Simon C. Parker

    (Ivey Business School, Western University, London, Canada)

  • Mirjam van Praag

    (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark)

Abstract

What is the effect of dispersed levels of cognitive ability of members of a (business) team on their team’s performance? This paper reports the results of a field experiment in which 573 students in 49 teams start up and manage real companies under identical circumstances. We ensured exogenous variation in — otherwise random — team composition by assigning students to teams based on their measured cognitive abilities (Raven test). Each team performs a variety of tasks, often involving complex decision making. The key result of the experiment is that the performance of business teams first increases and then decreases with ability dispersion. We seek to understand this finding by developing a model in which team members of different ability levels form sub-teams with other team members with similar ability levels to specialize in different productive tasks. Diversity spreads production over different tasks in order to escape diminishing marginal returns under specialization. The model comes with a boundary condition: our experimental finding is most likely to emerge in settings where different tasks exhibit moderate differences in their productive contributions to total output.

Suggested Citation

  • Sander Hoogendoorn & Simon C. Parker & Mirjam van Praag, 2014. "Ability Dispersion and Team Performance," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-053/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:tin:wpaper:20140053
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    File URL: https://papers.tinbergen.nl/14053.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Papps, Kerry L. & Bryson, Alex & Gomez, Rafael, 2011. "Heterogeneous worker ability and team-based production: Evidence from major league baseball, 1920-2009," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 310-319, June.
    2. Eric D. Gould & Eyal Winter, 2009. "Interactions between Workers and the Technology of Production: Evidence from Professional Baseball," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 188-200, February.
    3. Franck, Egon & Nüesch, Stephan, 2010. "The effect of talent disparity on team productivity in soccer," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 218-229, April.
    4. Hoogendoorn, Sander M. & van Praag, Mirjam C., 2012. "Ethnic Diversity and Team Performance: A Field Experiment," IZA Discussion Papers 6731, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Oosterbeek, Hessel & van Praag, Mirjam & Ijsselstein, Auke, 2010. "The impact of entrepreneurship education on entrepreneurship skills and motivation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 442-454, April.
    6. Barton H. Hamilton & Jack A. Nickerson & Hideo Owan, 2003. "Team Incentives and Worker Heterogeneity: An Empirical Analysis of the Impact of Teams on Productivity and Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 111(3), pages 465-497, June.
    7. Zeynep Hansen & Hideo Owan & Jie Pan, 2006. "The Impact of Group Diversity on Performance and Knowledge Spillover -- An Experiment in a College Classroom," NBER Working Papers 12251, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Lawrence M. Kahn, 2000. "The Sports Business as a Labor Market Laboratory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(3), pages 75-94, Summer.
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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Do diverse teams perform better?
      by nawmsayn in ZeeConomics on 2014-07-22 22:22:38

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    Cited by:

    1. Chen, Roy & Gong, Jie, 2018. "Can self selection create high-performing teams?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 20-33.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Ability dispersion; team performance; field experiment; entrepreneurship;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • L25 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Performance
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • M13 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - New Firms; Startups
    • M54 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Labor Management

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