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Geographic, temporal and cultural boundaries

A common reason for virtual collaboration is the different boundaries that can separate team members. O’Leary and Cummings (2007) describe team dispersion in terms of three dimensions: spatial, temporal and configurational. The spatial dimension involves distance, where team members are geographically separated from one another; the temporal dimension refers to the time differences in team member interaction; and the configural dimension describes how team members are clustered in their locations (e.g., two members may be placed together, while a third is separated). The greater the spread in terms of distance, time and configuration, the greater the need for virtual communications among team members.

Given the challenges posed by member dispersion, virtual team members may require competences for managing boundaries and member diversity that are less emphasized in traditional teams. Geographically dispersed teams will have a more heterogeneous organizational and cultural background, have little history of working together before and may bring different expectations to the team (Bosch-Sijtsema, 2007). Researchers have examined geographically dispersed teams in terms of their individualistic-collectivistic orientation (Hardin, Fuller & Davison, 2007; Oyserman, Coon & Kemmelmeier, 2002), communication (Cramton & Weber, 2005), innovation (Gibson & Gibbs, 2006) and status closure (Metiu, 2006). As teams become more geographically distant, time zone differences can be expected to play a role in team effectiveness. People working at different optimum circadian cycles are likely to find it difficult to work together optimally, as these temporal differences create scheduling conflicts and inhibit synchronous communication. Other negative outcomes of geographical dispersion involve expectation mismatches (e.g., about task, role and process) between team members, which negatively impact motivation and satisfaction, less communication, coordination and innovation, and reduced intragroup cooperation (Bosch-Sijtsema, 2007; Cramton & Webber, 2005; Gibson & Gibbs, 2006; Metiu, 2006).

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