Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)

Department

Information Systems

First Advisor

Starr Roxanne Hiltz

Second Advisor

Jerry Fjermestad

Third Advisor

Katia Passerini

Fourth Advisor

Murray Turoff

Fifth Advisor

Francis Kofi Andoh-Baidoo

Sixth Advisor

Robert Briggs

Abstract

Teams in organizations are strategically built with members from domains and experiences so that a wider range of information and options can be pooled. This strategic team structure is based on the assumption that when team members share the information they have, the team as a whole can access a larger pool of information than any one member acting alone, potentially enabling them to make better decisions. However, studies have shown that teams, unlike individuals, sometimes do not effectively share and use the unique information available to them, leading to poorer decisions. Research on information sharing in team decision making has widely focused on the exchange of shared or unshared information in the hidden profile paradigm, neglecting the role of information importance. Informational influence theory holds that the importance of information may affect how information is processed for making decisions in teams.

This study investigates information exchange processes to understand how teams can effectively exchange and use information available to them to make better decisions. The specific research question concerns the extent to which importance and distribution of information is associated with its exchange during discussion in distributed teams. Data are collected in a laboratory study involving subjects interacting with a computer-mediated decision support system.

The results show that the importance of information, the distribution and the interaction of importance and distribution have significant main effects on information exchange. Teams tend to exchange a higher proportion of the more important information compared to the less important information. A third dimension is introduced to measure information distribution -- partially shared information -- and is found to have a strong main effect on information exchange. It is also found that the extent to which team members exchange more important information during discussion strongly correlates with the tendency to improve team performance. It is also found that task complexity is negatively correlated with information exchange performance. Teams tend to exchange a smaller proportion of information when working on complex tasks, compared to when working on simple tasks.

This dissertation makes contributions in three areas. Firstly, a theoretical model is developed that allows for the investigation of the joint relationship of the importance of information and its distribution in team decision-making. Secondly, this work introduces a new approach to investigate information sharing, exchange and use in decision-making teams. Others can apply this approach fruitfully in investigating similar phenomena outside of the current domain. Finally, this work improves the understanding of information sharing and exchange processes in relation to the distribution of information and its importance.

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