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Creating Successful Online Teams

Business Researcher Seeks Clues to Improve Performance
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What’s the perfect team to have when you’re working in an online workforce environment?

That’s a simplification of a study currently being undertaken to find clues to how to make such teams work successfully across town, across the country or even around the world.

“I’m looking at ways team members interact when that interaction is primarily online … when they don’t see each other in a traditional work setting,” says Jordan Barlow, assistant professor of information systems and decision sciences at Cal State Fullerton. “The goal is to find ways to help teams work more intelligently … to better take advantage of individual group member strengths and discover why some teams are successful no matter what is thrown at them.”

The scholar will use test subjects who are randomly divided into teams and then give them tasks to complete collaboratively, but remotely, from each other. Each of the test subjects will be given standardized tests to measure various traits, including IQ, personality and social sensitivity. Structure, in the form of a specific tool like a spreadsheet application, will then be introduced to the task.

“The tools and structure that a team uses have the potential to help team members leverage their individual strengths because team members then don’t have to focus so much on coordination issues that commonly plague online interactions,” says Barlow.

“This study will measure to what extent such tools can indeed leverage individual strengths, but also whether such tools have an overall positive effect on team performance.”

Barlow, who joined CSUF in 2015, holds a doctorate from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business and has served as a small-business technology adviser, IT trainer and IT training supervisor. He is co-author of four peer-reviewed journal articles ranging from journal assessments to group decision and negotiation.