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Management of Information Overload in Virtual Teams

Many virtual teams are challenged by an overload of information being shared within the team and being received from outside the team. While there are already mechanisms to deal with in-formation overload on individual level, the psychological mechanisms on the collective level of the team are not yet entirely understood. This project aims at explaining influencing factors and developing joint strategies in the team for handling these challenges.

The sharing of information is an important factor for effective virtual teamwork because information is considered as critical resource to a team's or organization's success. Up to now, most research focused on trying to facilitate a prompt exchange of information within virtual teams. The aspired ideal was to make all information known to every single team member or at least accessible at any time, by sharing all available information with the entire virtual team. However, in operating practice and in sparse empirical studies it has become apparent that virtual collaboration does most often suffer from too much information with negative effects on decision-making processes and different performance indicators. Thus, information overload emerges to be a most prominent challenge in virtual teams.
However, until now there is a lack of research on the team level antecedents of information overload. Following current team research, team knowledge about task- and team-work characteristics represents an important cognitive underpinning of group functioning. Integrating these two perspectives, the project investigates the effects of team knowledge adaptation on information overload in virtual teams. Explicitly, the three foci of this research project are: (1) to investigate the causal relation of team knowledge and information overload, (2) to analyze how team knowledge adaptation can improve team knowledge in order to reduce information overload, and (3) to transfer the procedure into virtual teams' information management in organizations.

To achieve high internal and external validity, the project is structured in three phases (see figure 1) with multi-methodological approaches, namely a laboratory experiment (phase 1), a quasi-experimental field study (phase 2), and a field transfer (phase 3). In sum, this research project contributes to closing an empirical and theoretical research gap concerning the effects of team knowledge on information overload in virtual teams (research perspective) providing team knowledge adaptation stages as efficient strategy for information management in virtual teamwork (applied perspective).

Project Dates

Management and team
Prof. Dr. Oliver Rack, MSc Milena Rutz, MSc Elisabeth Angerer
Funding Schweizer Nationalfonds - Money follows Cooperation Line
Cooperation partners
Universität Trier, Prof. Dr. Thomas Ellwart, Berner Fachhochschule, Prof. Dr. Andrea Gurtner
April 2013 - June 2015