The Benefits of Early Diverse and Late Shared Task Cognition

[We’re pleased to welcome authors, Shirley Wang of the University of Hartford, Stephen J. Sauer of Clarkson University, Tom Schryver of the Johnson Graduate School of Management. They recently published an article in “Small Group Research” entitled “The Benefits of Early Diverse and Late Shared Task Cognition,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, they discuss the motivation and impact of this research:]

Multi-disciplinary teams are an increasingly common aspect of organizations. As products and services become more complex, organizations rely on teams of people who have diverse expertise. Despite this basic notion, multi-disciplinary teams can face knowledge integration hurdles, such as lacking enough common ground for mutual understanding.

The motivation of our research is to examine whether taking a longitudinal lens clarify when having diverse versus homogeneous cognition may be more beneficial for performance. This is where the title of our research comes in. We find that early on, diversity in cognition is much more beneficial for performance, but that over time, this relationship reverses, and teams actually benefit more from converging on their understanding of the task. This is because exploration of options is necessary early on, but choosing a path and implementing a course of action is necessary later on.

The implication of this research is twofold. First, there are payoffs to cognitive diversity. Second, managers should create programs and policies that encourage the convergence of diversity within a certain timeframe.

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