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Teams are the most common form of collaboration in organizations: A team of consultants working on a project, a team of surgeons and nurses operating on a patient, a team of fire fighters putting out a fire, or a team of astronauts flying into space. Due to the abundance and relevance of teams, it is important to understand the determinants of team performance.
However, there is very little research on how specific observable interactions between team members affect team performance. Should a team leader shout at everyone to motivate his subordinates or is it better if he speaks quietly to different members of his team in private? Do patients recover better after surgery if the surgeons look at each others' hands while they operate on the patient? In other words, how do observable behaviors in teams influence team performance? If we knew if and how such interactions affect team performance, we could increase performance by training them.
There are two main reasons why so far little is known on how observable behaviors influence team performance: First, there is little to no theory linking such behaviors to psychological constructs that are thought to determine team performance. Second, it is challenging to measure such behaviors in real life scenarios.
In this interdisciplinary project, social psychologists and electrical engineers have teamed up to overcome the two issues outlined above. We develop new theories on how psychological constructs determine team performance such as coordination, monitoring each other's actions, motivation, and communication, are connected with observable behavior. We will subsequently test these theories by using newly-developed body-worn sensors that measure these behaviors. Specifically, we will investigate such behaviors in firefighting teams, in surgical teams, and in simulated management teams.
In this way, we hope to gain new insights into the determinants of team performance and to contribute to helping teams realize their full potential in the workplace.
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