The poster “Impression that Last” presents initial results on the impact of social identity on a team’s information seeking network. The findings are based on a slice of my data. The full data set contains information about several teams over 3 time waves. Several networks are collected (knowledge, valuing, information allocation and information retrieval). The theory guiding the choice of network variables is transactive memory system (a form of team mental model). In addition to this, social identity (identification with the team and the profession) is also collected at these 3 time points, together with other measures of transactive memory system (cognitive aspects of transactive memory system) and team learning behavior.
(Scroll down for pdf of poster)
The Story Behind the Picture
This story is about multidisciplinary consulting teams. Everybody needs to contribute for the team to be successful. But in every project you have those who are more engaged in the project than others. These score high on team identity. With high team identity comes high commitment to the team. Those people are called prototypical team members: They are the team. This concept is based on social identity theory which looks at individual’s emotional attachment to groups and how this influences the communication flows within groups and between groups.
From team research we know that for a team to succeed it is necessary for everyone to go in the same direction. Team members need to have a shared mental model of the task and the expertise in the team. This mental model can only be created when team members communicating with each other. This is where network analysis glues the two theories together: Prototypical team members should be in the center of the team and thus guiding the creation of a shared mental model. Prototypical team members should have the highest amount of in-degrees, because they embody the team, therefore other team members prefer to go to them for information. By being prototypical, the person has the best knowledge of the team’s goal, task, what behavior is allowed etc. There should also have the highest out-degree, because they are committed to the team and thus want the team to succeed. Therefore, they spent the most effort into coordinating team members, asking what work they are doing for the team and seeing how the work from the different team members connect with each other.
What we see is that level of team identity only influences out-degree. Reason could be, that because of the interdependence of project members, everybody needs to know what everybody else was doing. Thus team members with low levels of team identity were also sought out because they were doing unique work within the team.
Note: Yes, I know that I switch between the term groups and teams, and that they are not the same. A team is a collection of people who have the same goal, whereas a group is a collection of people who interact with each other. E.g. The collection of people attending Sunbelt is a group. In this group we have several teams of researchers pursuing the same interests by working together in projects. For social identity theory this distinction is – to my knowledge – not important.