Diversity Communication in Teams: Improving Problem Solving or Creating Confusion?
Despite the rich and interdisciplinary debate on the role of diversity and communication in group problem solving, as well as the recognition of the interactions between the two topics, they have been rarely treated as a joint research issue. In this paper we develop a computational approach aimed at modeling problem solving agents and we assess the impact of various levels of diversity and communication in teams on agents' performance at solving problems. By communication we intend a conversation on the persuasiveness of the features characterizing the problem setting. By diversity we mean differences in how agents build problem representations that allow them to access various solutions. We deploy the concept of diversity along two dimensions: knowledge amplitude, that is, the amount of available knowledge (compared to the complete representation of a problem), and knowledge variety, which pertains to the differences in agents' knowledge endowments.x10Our results show the different impact of these two sources of variety on problem solving performance in teams, as well as their interplay. Regarding knowledge amplitude, when agents' representation of the problem is considerably incomplete, communication provides confusion as it is difficult to find a common language for sharing thoughts, and agents perform better alone. Adding knowledge variety to this scenario, the effects of communication are even more negative. Conversely, as the representation of the problem gets more and more complete, communication becomes more and more effective. Albeit displaying a clear non-monotonic effect: increasing the communication strength, performance increases until an optimal point, after which it declines and gets very rapidly worse than individual behavior. In this case, the introduction of knowledge variety further increases performance in teams, since benefits from integrating partial representations of the problem occur more frequently than communication clashes. Finally, highly diverse teams seem to be less sensitive to changes in communication strength, while as diversity declines, even small discrepancies from the optimal communication strength level might account for a strong variability of performance. In particular, overestimation of the required communication effort might cause severe performance breakdowns.x10Our results suggest that organizations and firms should jointly consider communication intensity and different sources of diversity in teams, since interactions among these variables might result in problem solving groups resembling more a Tower of Babel than an effective and helpful workplace
|Date of creation:||Mar 2007|
|Date of revision:||13 Jun 2008|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: via Inama, 5 -- I-38100 Trento TN|
Web page: http://www.unitn.it/disa
More information through EDIRC
|Order Information:|| Postal: DISA Università degli Studi di Trento via Inama, 5 I-38122 Trento TN Italy|
Web: http://www.unitn.it/disa Email:
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:trt:disatr:119. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Roberto Gabriele)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.