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Team Reflexivity as an Antidote to Team Information-Processing Failures



This article proposes that team reflexivity—a deliberate process of discussing team goals, processes, or outcomes—can function as an antidote to team-level biases and errors in decision making. We build on prior work conceptualizing teams as information-processing systems and highlight reflexivity as a critical information-processing activity. Prior research has identified consequential information-processing failures that occur in small groups, such as the failure to discuss privately held relevant information, biased processing of information, and failure to update conclusions when situations change. We propose that team reflexivity reduces the occurrence of information-processing failures by ensuring that teams discuss and assess the implications of team information for team goals, processes, and outcomes. In this article, we present a model of team information-processing failures and remedies involving team reflexivity, and we discuss the conditions under which team reflexivity is and is not likely to facilitate performance.
Small Group Research
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DOI: 10.1177/1046496414553473
2014 45: 731Small Group Research
Michaéla C. Schippers, Amy C. Edmondson and Michael A. West
Team Reflexivity as an Antidote to Team Information-Processing
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2014, Vol. 45(6) 731 –769
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DOI: 10.1177/1046496414553473
Team Reflexivity as
an Antidote to Team
Michaéla C. Schippers1, Amy C. Edmondson2,
and Michael A. West3
This article proposes that team reflexivity—a deliberate process of
discussing team goals, processes, or outcomes—can function as an
antidote to team-level biases and errors in decision making. We build
on prior work conceptualizing teams as information-processing systems
and highlight reflexivity as a critical information-processing activity. Prior
research has identified consequential information-processing failures that
occur in small groups, such as the failure to discuss privately held relevant
information, biased processing of information, and failure to update
conclusions when situations change. We propose that team reflexivity
reduces the occurrence of information-processing failures by ensuring
that teams discuss and assess the implications of team information for
team goals, processes, and outcomes. In this article, we present a model
of team information-processing failures and remedies involving team
reflexivity, and we discuss the conditions under which team reflexivity is
and is not likely to facilitate performance.
1Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
2Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, USA
3Lancaster University Management School, UK
Corresponding Author:
Michaéla C. Schippers, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam,
Room T09-52, P.O. Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
This article is part of the special issue: 2014 Annual Review Issue, Small Group Research,
Volume 45(6).
553473SGRXXX10.1177/1046496414553473Small Group ResearchSchippers et al.
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732 Small Group Research 45(6)
team reflexivity, team information-processing failures, team regulatory
processes, team learning
Recent conceptualizations of teams as information-processing systems
focus scholarly attention on the centrality of activities such as sharing,
analyzing, storing, and using information in carrying out teamwork (De
Dreu, Nijstad, & van Knippenberg, 2008; Hinsz, Tindale, & Vollrath,
1997; Nijstad & Stroebe, 2006; Salas, Rozell, Mullen, & Driskell, 1999).
As a growing number of teams in the workplace perform intellectual and
cognitive tasks (Cooke, Salas, Cannon-Bowers, & Stout, 2000; Hinsz et
al., 1997; Salas, Dickinson, Converse, & Tannenbaum, 1992), processing
information has become a central and essential aspect of most teamwork.
Through members’ cognitions and communication, teams process infor-
mation of all kinds, resulting in team outputs in the form of decisions,
plans, product designs, or services delivered. As teams work with informa-
tion, possibilities for misplaced emphases, distortion, or critical omissions
abound (cf. Flores, Zheng, Rau, & Thomas, 2012). Yet research on the role
of team reflexivity as a possible remedy has been limited. The aim of this
article is to explore the role of team reflexivity in the effective processing
of information and to propose team reflexivity an antidote to what we refer
to as team information-processing (TIP) failures. We argue that team
reflexivity can help counteract TIP failures and thus aid the decision-mak-
ing process in teams that operate in a demanding, knowledge-intensive
Consider, for example, a breast cancer care team charged with diagnosis
and treatment of women with suspected carcinoma. The team faces chal-
lenges that range from long patient waiting times to the risk of misdiagnosis.
The team’s decisions may be overly influenced by a surgeon, due to profes-
sional status, and inadequately influenced by a nurse with unique informa-
tion about the patient’s symptoms, particularly if her input is not requested
or valued. The team would thus fail to integrate and develop implications of
the full set of information held by its members (Woolley, Gerbasi, Chabris,
Kosslyn, & Hackman, 2008). Similarly, team conclusions may not be
updated in the presence of new information, if, for example, the surgeon’s
preference for an operation dominates, restricting discussion of alternative
treatments. As we discuss in this review article, it is possible to avoid such
information-processing failures through careful discussion of team mem-
bers’ information, assessments, concerns, or hunches.
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Schippers et al. 733
As information-processing systems, teams are vulnerable to information-
processing failures, including those known to characterize individual cogni-
tion (Tajfel & Turner, 1986; Taylor & Brown, 1988) and those that stem from
confusion, misunderstanding, or withholding information that occur in
groups due to breakdowns in interpersonal interaction. Research on human
cognitive shortcomings has identified numerous manifestations of bounded
rationality (Kahneman, 2003; Simon, 1947, 1955, 1979) that make it difficult
for individuals to process available information rationally and effectively.
Instead, we process information in ways that produce systematic errors (see
Heath, Larrick, & Klayman, 1998). Research on individual information-
processing failures has a long history in organization studies (for a recent
review, see Hilbert, 2012), while the area of TIP failures is receiving more
research attention in the past decades. This was mainly owed to a seminal
review of teams as information processors arguing that individual cognitive
shortcomings may be exaggerated rather than mitigated in teams (Hinsz et
al., 1997),1 in part because of the potential for further information distortion
created by poor communication. Although the possibility exists that team
members can catch and correct each other’s individual information-process-
ing failures, research on group dynamics suggests that this is unlikely to be
the norm (e.g., Janis, 1982a). Other group dynamics, including withholding
of information also limit the effectiveness of team conversations and lead to
poor outcomes (e.g., Argyris & Schön, 1978; Edmondson, Roberto, &
Watkins, 2003; Janis, 1972, 1982a, 1982b; Janis & Mann, 1977; for a meta-
analysis see Mesmer-Magnus & DeChurch, 2009).
Teams that face high task complexity are likely to be particularly vulner-
able to specific information-processing failures. An information-processing
failure is defined as a distortion in the exchange of, communication about, or
elaboration on information due to either an omission error in information
sampling or biased elaboration of the information. Drawing from research on
team decision making and team learning, we organize these process failures
into three categories: (a) failure to share or discuss relevant information,
(b) failure to elaborate and examine implications of shared information, and
(c) failure to update or alter prior conclusions or current behaviors.
We use these categories to propose a theoretical model of team reflexiv-
ity—the deliberate discussion of team goals, processes, or outcomes, so as to
adapt them as needed. Our model builds on an emerging conceptualization of
teams as information-processing systems and highlights reflexivity as a criti-
cal information-processing activity. Prior research has identified consequen-
tial information-processing failures that occur in small groups. Although a
recent review has cast some doubt on team reflexivity as a panacea for team
performance (Moreland & McMinn, 2010), we propose that a deliberate and
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734 Small Group Research 45(6)
targeted use of team reflexivity reduces the likelihood of these failures (cf.
Lewis, Belliveau, Herndon, & Keller, 2007). Specifically, we propose that
information-processing failures can be mitigated in teams that employ a con-
scious process of reflection about what they are trying to achieve (their
goals), how they are going about it (their processes), and how effective or
successful they are (their outcomes). Teams that engage in high levels of
reflection on goals, processes, and outcomes are likely better able to avoid
information-processing failures. In short, we argue that reflexivity enhances
team performance through more effective information processing, which in
turn relates to reduced team errors and failures.
An important novel contribution of our article is that we organize the lit-
erature around TIP failures with our taxonomy of these failures (i.e., biases
and errors), and we propose that reflexivity can counteract these failures. The
main aim is to spur systematic research in this area, which is currently very
much scattered, and to propose an agenda that explores how depth of reflex-
ivity affects TIP (see West, 2000).
In the sections that follow, we define the construct of reflexivity and situ-
ate it in the team learning literature. We then elaborate the construct by
reviewing dimensions of reflexivity drawn from multiple literatures. We
review evidence from the literature for three information-processing failures
at the group level to explore how reflexivity may mitigate these problems.
Finally, we discuss preliminary research on interventions to stimulate reflex-
ivity in teams, point to avenues for future research, and discuss implications
for practice.
Team Reflexivity
Team reflexivity, a group-level construct, has been defined in prior work as
“the extent to which group members overtly reflect upon, and communicate
about the group’s objectives, strategies (e.g., decision making) and processes
(e.g., communication), and adapt them to current or anticipated circum-
stances” (West, 2000, p. 296). Although the original construct comprised
three parts, namely, reflection, planning, and action/adaptation, recent work
views team reflexivity as one construct, with information processing as an
essential element of team reflection (e.g., Schippers, Den Hartog, &
Koopman, 2007; Schippers, Homan, & van Knippenberg, 2013; Schippers,
West, & Dawson, 2012; for reviews see Moreland & McMinn, 2010; Widmer,
Schippers, & West, 2009).
Using the taxonomy of team processes proposed by Marks, Mathieu, and
Zaccaro (2001), reflexivity can be seen as a transition process referring to
actions that teams execute between performance episodes (Marks et al.,
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Schippers et al. 735
2001; Schippers et al., 2013; Schippers et al., 2012). Reflecting on work pro-
cesses can help teams to innovate by promoting the generation of new ideas
about how to work together effectively (Schippers et al., 2012; Schippers,
West, & Edmondson, forthcoming).
We conceptualize team reflexivity as an explicit information-processing
activity in a team that precedes adaptation and is an essential component of
team learning. We propose that team reflexivity improves team decision mak-
ing and performance by reducing the potential for information-processing
failures. Our conceptualization distinguishes the construct of team reflexivity
from frequency of communication in teams. Specifically, the content of the
communication is important; team reflexivity implies systematic reflection,
which is not the same as merely communicating (for a recent review, see
Ellis, Carette, Anseel, & Lievens, 2014). Team reflexivity thus entails a dis-
cussion-based process in which teams assess their current information and
their past or planned actions, decisions, or conclusions, with respect to goals,
processes, or outcomes. The aim of team reflexivity is to evaluate past actions
and performance, learn from failures and successes, and craft action inten-
tions for improved future functioning (Ellis et al., 2014). Although adaptation
is not guaranteed to follow team reflection, we argue that the chances of mak-
ing useful changes in the team are increased by this activity, as is also indi-
cated in prior research (e.g., Ellis et al., 2014; Geletkanycz & Black, 2001;
LePine, 2003; Marks, Zaccaro, & Mathieu, 2000). For example, the breast
cancer team might reflect on whether a team goal of seeing all patient refer-
rals within 14 days is too long or too short. The team also may consider
whether waiting time is the right performance measure and consider a new
goal related to quality of care. Team reflexivity could involve considering
process issues, such as whether information from the nurse or the oncologist
is being heard and used and whether or not the surgeon dominates team deci-
sion making. Reflection on outcomes might target levels of innovation or
satisfaction in the team (cf. Schippers et al., forthcoming; Tjosvold, Tang, &
West, 2004). In short, reflection is an evaluative team discussion process that
targets goals, processes, or outcomes. Team reflexivity means combining
reflection and the outcome of reflection with adaptation.
By definition, team reflexivity can be distinguished from other concepts
within basic and applied research, such as feedback-seeking behavior, trans-
active memory, extended problem-definition phase, and quality circles. These
concepts tend to assume team reflexivity takes place without specifying it. As
such, the concept of team reflexivity has theoretical value over constructs in
which the actual process of sharing and elaborating of information is assumed
and remains a black box process. Moreover, team reflexivity can be distin-
guished from team learning. A growing literature contributes to our
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736 Small Group Research 45(6)
understanding of antecedents and outcomes of team learning (e.g.,
Edmondson, 1999; Edmondson, Dillon, & Roloff, 2007; Gibson & Vermeulen,
2003; Jehn & Rupert, 2008; Wilson, Goodman, & Cronin, 2007). However,
as noted in a review of the literature, team learning has remained a fairly
undifferentiated or encompassing construct—comprised variously of engag-
ing in learning behaviors that emphasize communication between team mem-
bers and others, and range from asking questions and admitting mistakes
within the team to boundary-spanning activities that gather information or
expertise from others outside the team (Edmondson et al., 2007). Most of the
research in this area views team learning as a process (e.g., Edmondson,
1999; Gibson & Vermeulen, 2003) although some (e.g., Wilson et al., 2007)
use the variable to refer to an outcome. We join the former tradition and focus
narrowly on reflexivity as one aspect of the learning process. This article
develops reflexivity as a specific and essential team learning activity in a
dynamic or complex environment. This premise is consistent with prior work
on learning at different levels of analysis (e.g., Dewey, 1910/1933; Kolb,
1984). Finally, the concept of team reflexivity can help structure the informa-
tion-processing problem space, such that we can derive a set of testable
Information-Processing Failures and Reflexivity in
Extensive research has shown that individuals, working alone or in groups,
use information-processing strategies that are often suboptimal or dysfunc-
tional (e.g., Hinsz et al., 1997; Senge, 1990; Taylor & Brown, 1988; Van de
Ven, 1986) and that these common errors and failures are amplified in
teams. Hinsz et al. (1997; see also Sasou & Reason, 1999) mention two
explanations for why common individual-level failures are amplified at the
team level. First, groups are more consistent in applying the rules and strat-
egies they use in processing information, and amplification of information-
processing failures occurs when they use biasing rules. Second, processes
akin to social loafing and diffusion of responsibility can occur when groups
perform cognitive tasks (i.e., cognitive loafing, for example, Schippers,
2014; Weldon & Gargano, 1988). Cognition and interpersonal interaction
thus create areas of vulnerability that reduce the likelihood of optimal
information-processing strategies and outcomes in teams charged with
knowledge work.
Therefore, both theoretical and practical motivations exist for understand-
ing factors that could help teams avoid these information-processing pitfalls.
Highhouse (2001) noted the paucity of research on de-biasing techniques in
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Schippers et al. 737
organizational decision-making processes; a similar gap exists in team
research. The following sections elaborate our three categories of TIP failures
as an organizing framework for reviewing team and small group research
related to this topic: (a) failure to search for and share relevant information,
(b) failure to elaborate on information, and (c) failure to alter shared conclu-
sions and maintaining or even reinforcing existing team behaviors. We also
identify ways that team reflexivity could help counteract each of these fail-
ures. A taxonomy of these failures and ways of encouraging reflexivity to
overcome them can be found in Figure 1. This figure will serve as an organiz-
ing framework for the remainder of the article.
Failure to Search for and Share Relevant Information
A coherent research paradigm on team failures to search for and share infor-
mation can be found within the information-sharing literature. Teams that
pool knowledge from multiple sources to generate ideas are likely to make
better decisions than lone individuals. In practice, however, the benefits of
team pooling are elusive. First, unique information (known by only one
member) in decision-making groups tends not to be shared in discussions,
independent of its relevance (Stasser, 1999). Experimental studies have dem-
onstrated that groups discuss common information (held by all or most mem-
bers) at great length, and unique information often fails to surface. When it
does surface, its impact is often muted (e.g., Larson, Christensen, Abbott, &
Franz, 1996; Stasser, 1999; Stasser & Titus, 1985). Unique information may
remain unshared when individuals—deeply engaged in the discussion at
hand—fail to recognize its salience for the issue under consideration.
Members also may fail to share private information because they take it for
granted and implicitly assume that others know what they know (cf. Woolley
et al., 2008) or because they are reluctant to interrupt the flow of an ongoing
A recent review emphasized representational gaps in teams, in which
diverse team members have different encodings of a problem, which lead to
different representations of the problem that cannot be integrated (Cronin &
Weingart, 2007). Representational gaps are thus important process losses in
teams, interfering with TIP and hindering the development of a shared under-
standing. Similarly, cross-understanding, or the understanding of each other’s
mental model within a team, is an important element for integrating informa-
tion (Huber & Lewis, 2010). Brodbeck, Kerschreiter, Mojzisch, and Schulz-
Hardt (2007) presented an information asymmetries model in which
prediscussion distribution of information affects whether or not group discus-
sion promotes decision quality.
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Remedies fostering reflexivity
Failure to search for and share information
-Common knowledge effect
-Hidden profile effect
-Representational gaps
-Motivated information sharing
Failure to elaborate on and analyze
-Positive illusions
Assuring useful, relevant, and correct information
-Giving the team more time to discuss
-Access to informational records during discussion
-Instructing team members not to form a priori judgments
-Framing the task as a problem to be solved
-Assigning roles associated with the information distribution
-Having a norm to reflect
Failure to revise and update conclusions
-Habitual routines
-Social entrainment
-Escalation of commitment
-Confirmation bias
Explicit attention to the team’s decision-making process, and
potential disconfirming information
-Process accountability
Explicit information processing
-Grounded in data
-Offered as disconfirmable statements
-Balance advocacy and inquiry
Information-processing failures/
areas of reflection
Figure 1. A taxonomy of information-processing failures and remedies fostering team reflexivity.
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Schippers et al. 739
In sum, the failure to share and discuss task-relevant information in teams
is well established in prior research. Because this work has been extensively
reviewed elsewhere (Brodbeck et al., 2007; Tindale & Kameda, 2000), we
do not provide a full review here. Nonetheless, this failure constitutes an
important process loss (Steiner, 1972) that team reflexivity may help
How Team Reflexivity Counteracts the Failure to
Search for and Share Information
Team reflexivity may mitigate the failure to search for and share information
by increasing the chances that a team will identify and use useful, relevant,
and correct information (Brodbeck et al., 2007; Schulz-Hardt, Brodbeck,
Mojzisch, Kerschreiter, & Frey, 2006). Also, team reflexivity may assure that
teams recognize the need to create some degree of shared understanding in
the case of representational gaps (Cronin & Weingart, 2007).
First, teams need to assess whether they have enough information to effec-
tively complete their work instead of assuming they have all the information
they need. Prior research suggests a lack of information sharing (the common
knowledge effect) can be attenuated by reflexivity. Most simply, increased
information exchange increases the likelihood that relevant information will
be taken into account (Schulz-Hardt et al., 2006). Five procedural mecha-
nisms have been shown to attenuate the common knowledge effect (Tindale
& Kameda, 2000): (a) giving the group more time to discuss (as opposed to
time pressure), (b) allowing the group to have access to informational records
during discussion, (c) instructing group members not to form a priori judg-
ments, (d) framing the task as a problem to be solved, and (e) explicit assign-
ment of roles based on information distribution (with roles known by all
group members). These mechanisms can be seen as strategies for promoting
reflexivity because they encourage teams to reflect carefully on members’
diverse information.
Second, when teams are made aware of the pitfall of shared information
being attended to disproportionately compared with unshared information
(i.e., common knowledge effect; Gigone & Hastie, 1993), they are more
likely to share information effectively, likely increasing decision quality. A
lab study by Postmes, Spears, and Cihangir (2001) showed that groups with
critical norms rather than consensus norms enhanced the quality of decision
making, in part, because those groups sought and valued unshared informa-
tion more than groups with a consensus norm (cf. Eisenhardt, Kahwajy, &
Bourgeois, 1997; Kellermanns, Floyd, Pearson, & Spencer, 2008).
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740 Small Group Research 45(6)
However, teams may not reap the benefits of those critical norms if the
potential positive side of this mild form of conflict escalates into a negative
form of conflict (Simons & Peterson, 2000), possibly as a result of initial
negative performance feedback (Peterson & Behfar, 2003). Therefore, con-
structive confrontation norms are key in enabling team problem solving and
discussion of information based on arguments rather than hierarchy or power
(Burgelman, 1994; Kellermanns et al., 2008). These norms of open expres-
sion, disagreement, and avoidance of negative affect (Kellermanns et al.,
2008), combined with high levels of trust, are important for reflexivity to be
effective, especially when the team’s prior performance has not been up to
par (Peterson & Behfar, 2003; Schippers et al., 2013). Relatedly, epistemic
motivation or “the willingness to expend effort to achieve a thorough, rich,
and accurate understanding of the world, including the group task or decision
problem at hand” (De Dreu et al., 2008, p. 23) has been found to be positively
related to deep, systematic information processing in teams (De Dreu, Koole,
& Oldersma, 1999), and is an important prerequisite for the quality of
Research also shows that norms carry over from one situation to another.
For instance, members of a dyad with prior experience in either cooperative
or competitive interaction maintained a consistent style despite changes in
task or interaction partner (Bettenhausen & Murnighan, 1991). Klein (1989)
showed that when a new situation seemed familiar, preferred solutions and
alternatives used previously were seen as appropriate in the new situation.
This carryover of norms and working methods makes it important to establish
explicit team norms of critical thought and reflection, and to establish regular
discussions about the appropriateness of using prior solutions for new
In the breast cancer care team, explicit reflection on what information the
team has and needs can help the team recognize that each member may hold
unique information. This may spur team reflexivity, helping the team seek
out and pay special attention to information held by individual specialists.
Proposition 1: Norms and strategies that favor critical thought and search
for information will promote team reflexivity and this, in turn, will coun-
teract the failure to search for and share information.
Failure to Elaborate and Derive Implications From Information
Even if unique information is shared, teams might still fail to elaborate on the
information in a systematic and unbiased way. Elaboration refers to working
out in detail, and revealing intricacy, through a careful and painstaking
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Schippers et al. 741
process to understand or explain in detail the information relevant to a team’s
decision-making process. Deriving implications refers to identifying or
exploring relationships between propositions arising from the information.
Specifically, teams could elaborate (a) observations about prior team actions
or performance, assessments of those actions, (b) implications of observa-
tions or assessments, and (c) suggestions for future actions.
Individual motives affecting information sharing can leave teams with
incomplete and biased information for elaboration (Wittenbaum,
Hollingshead, & Botero, 2004). If team members have individual goals that
are not in line with team goals, they may pay little attention to information
relevant for the team goal that threatens their own goals even though the
information is shared. Diverse teams may be particularly subject to this TIP
failure (Chiu & Staples, 2013; for reviews, see van Knippenberg & Schippers,
2007; van Knippenberg, van Ginkel, & Homan, 2013). Furthermore, if teams
fail to share information, members may miss out on important information
and this may harm the decision-making process. The quality of information
elaboration can also be influenced by team composition. Recent research
shows that information/decision making and social categorization processes
interact, such that intergroup biases flowing from social categorization dis-
rupt the elaboration of task-relevant information (van Knippenberg, De Dreu,
& Homan, 2004), referred to as the Categorization-Elaboration Model
Recent research shows that elaboration of information is especially impor-
tant in highly turbulent environments (Resick, Murase, Randall, & DeChurch,
2014) and when teams have a complex task (cf. Schippers, 2014; Vashdi,
Bamberger, & Erez, 2013). A complex task, as opposed to a simple task, is
characterized by high rather than low information-processing requirements
(Gist, Locke, & Taylor, 1987; West, 1996). The uncertainty inherent in a
complex task will spur teams to broaden their knowledge base, for instance,
through reflexivity. Where the task is complex, the need to exchange infor-
mation and collectively process information will be strong. In the case of a
complex task in a turbulent environment, structural team reflexivity in the
form of action team learning may be particularly important. Action team
learning is a team-level property defined as “reflecting not simply whether
team members are trained in reflexivity methods, but rather the degree to
which team members have consistently engaged in a greater number of
guided, shared, and role-focused reflective experiences following team
action” (Vashdi et al., 2013, pp. 946-947). This form of ongoing reflexivity
was shown to increase coordination with respect to helping and workload
sharing and, in turn, team performance (Vashdi et al., 2013). This research
shows that team reflexivity also has a temporal dimension: It is an iterative
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742 Small Group Research 45(6)
process of reflection and adaptation, stressing the temporal aspect of this con-
struct (Schippers et al., 2007; West, 1996).
Framing, heuristics, and positive illusions. Known failures to elaborate and
develop the implications of available information include framing effects and
the use of heuristics and positive illusions (e.g., illusion of control). Framing
refers to the tendency for people to make vastly different decisions based on
how the problem is presented (Kahneman, 2003; Tversky & Kahneman,
1981). For example, when problems are presented in a way that emphasizes
the potential for gain, people tend to make conservative (risk-averse) deci-
sions, whereas when the same problem is presented to emphasize the poten-
tial to avoid loss or suffering, people make riskier decisions (Kahneman &
Tversky, 1979, 1984). How information is framed may therefore affect how
it is elaborated (Schippers, Rook, & Van de Velde, 2014).
Simple rules of thumb, known as heuristics, also may limit elaboration of
information. For instance, the availability heuristic—a rule of thumb in which
people base their prediction of the frequency of an event (or the proportion
within a population) on how easily an example can be brought to mind—
leads people to make irrational estimates, discrepant from actual statistical
probability. Another example would be the anchoring bias in which people
tend to rely heavily on the first piece of information offered, which functions
as an “anchor” when making decisions. Heuristics, by definition, limit infor-
mation processing and thus may reduce the quality of team judgments or
decisions, especially for nonroutine decisions (cf. Croskerry, 2003; Fischhoff,
Illusions are enduring systematic distortions of reality, in contrast to errors
and biases, which refer to short-term mistakes and distortions (cf. Funder,
1987). Common positive illusions include unrealistic positive self-evalua-
tions, the illusion of control, and unrealistic optimism (Taylor & Brown,
1988). Although positive illusions have been shown to be associated with
psychological health, they are nonetheless likely to bias TIP (Taylor &
Brown, 1988, 1994), especially if illusions become exaggerated in a team
context. For instance, Heath and Jourden (1997) showed that both before and
after task performance groups maintain positive illusions about their perfor-
mance, whereas individuals tended to become disillusioned during task per-
formance. Similar findings regarding group brainstorming have been reported
(Paulus, Dzindolet, Poletes, & Camacho, 1993; Paulus, Larey, & Dzindolet,
2000). This effect may lead teams to discard information about areas for
improvement. For example, a breast cancer care team could adopt a policy,
under a dominant surgeon, of favoring radical surgery over a medical
approach to treatment.
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Schippers et al. 743
How Team Reflexivity Can Counteract the Failure to Elaborate
and Derive Implications
Team reflexivity can help mitigate the failure to elaborate and derive implica-
tions from information through explicit information processing (cf. Lubatkin,
Simsek, Ling, & Veiga, 2006; Wei & Wu, 2013). This entails weighing infor-
mation in an unbiased way before reaching a final decision. Ideally, the elab-
oration process should (a) be grounded in data (concrete examples or any
relatively concrete evidence to back up or clarify an observation or assess-
ment), (b) involve disconfirmable statements (phrased such that the veracity
of the statements can be assessed), and (c) balance advocacy and inquiry.
These features of high-quality elaboration will affect how information is
interpreted (Argyris & Schön, 1978; Ellis, Mendel, & Nir, 2006; Sitkin, 1992;
for a review, see Ellis et al., 2014).
Individual-level research suggests that deliberation can counteract fail-
ures, such as the illusion of control—an inaccurate perception that an indi-
vidual is in control in a particular situation. Notably, experimental research
showed that participants with a deliberative mind-set (i.e., predecisional
reflective phase), compared with an implemental mind-set (postdecisional or
action phase), were less vulnerable to the positive illusion bias (Gollwitzer &
Kinney, 1989). Once participants decided on a course of action, the positive
sides of the favored choice became cognitively exaggerated, enhancing goal
implementation (Taylor & Gollwitzer, 1995). Although research on illusion
of control or positive biases in teams is exceedingly scarce, we propose that
the shortcomings observed for individuals might be even greater in teams
(Hinsz et al., 1997). Teams could be helped to develop a deliberative mind-
set by encouraging team members to reflect on and weigh relevant informa-
tion carefully before switching to an implemental mind-set. Research on idea
generation in groups using a brainwriting paradigm (i.e., team members writ-
ing down ideas on a slip of paper) has shown that two conditions enhance
idea sharing in groups, namely (a) attention, the extent to which groups care-
fully process the exchanged ideas, and (b) incubation, the opportunity for
group members to reflect on the exchanged ideas afterwards (Paulus & Yang,
2000). Both aspects, attention and incubation, are part of team reflexivity and
hence a deliberative mind-set is needed to counteract the failure to elaborate
and derive conclusions from information.
For instance, team reflexivity can be used explicitly to counteract self- and
group-enhancing positive illusions that hinder the discovery of errors in
problem solving and decision making, and aid in the detection of the need to
make changes (cf. Polzer, Kramer, & Neale, 1997). Deliberate reflection
should also help in mitigating failures caused by heuristics and framing, by
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allowing a team to produce a clear and realistic picture of the situation.
Moreover, over time, knowledge of and attention to common fallacies should
help teams become increasingly aware of framing effects and the use of
unhelpful heuristics in decision making. Reflecting on and questioning heu-
ristics (i.e., reflexivity) used in a team is a helpful strategy that aids cognitive
de-biasing (for a review, see Croskerry, 2003). Of course, it is essential that
the use of such explicit information-processing strategies is related to the
objectives, strategies, and processes of the team. Thus, for the breast cancer
care team, reflexivity (at sufficient depth) would create circumstances in
which a heuristic that created a bias toward radical surgery could be noticed
and challenged. Moreover the positive illusion about its value could be
exposed by discussions about the cosmetic and psychological disadvantages
for patients of too rigorous an approach to surgery.
Proposition 2: Team reflexivity—explicit information processing regard-
ing the team’s objectives, strategies, and processes—will counteract the
failure to elaborate and develop the implications of team information.
Failure to Revise and Update Conclusions
After elaborating and reflecting on the information available to the team, it is
important to proceed toward revising and updating conclusions. Several
streams of research point to the challenge of effectively updating conclusions
or behaviors in teams. Just as a frog fails to react to a slow change in tempera-
ture (Senge, 1990), teams may fail to recognize critical changes in their envi-
ronment that occur gradually.2 Several related concepts and theories (e.g.,
habitual routines, social entrainment, escalation of commitment, and confir-
mation bias) suggest that revising shared views of reality in groups when the
environment changes is challenging.
Habitual routines and social entrainment. The failure to revise conclusions
in teams—especially the failure to question a current course of action—is
suggested by research on habitual routines. A well-honed routine can
crowd out consideration of alternative interpretations of the situation and
appropriate courses of action. An example, described by Gersick and
Hackman (1990) is the 1982 crash of Air Florida flight 90, when the cock-
pit crew failed to use the anti-ice capability of the aircraft, despite the icy
weather conditions. The usual routine for this crew, accustomed to warm
climates, was to answer “off” when “anti-ice” was read from the checklist.
Facing the atypical circumstance of ice and snow, the crew failed to update
their usual routine.
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A related phenomenon, social entrainment, the persistence of social
rhythms in a team, refers to the failure to update taken for granted conclu-
sions.3 According to McGrath and Kelly (1986), “groups and individuals
attune their rates of work to fit the temporal conditions of their work situa-
tions, and that such attunement, once established, persists to some degree
even when surrounding temporal conditions have changed” (p. 100). For
instance, an experimental study among four-person teams found that time
limits imposed during a first trial influenced group work and patterns of inter-
action on subsequent trials (Kelly & McGrath, 1985). Other research shows
similar tendencies in teams (e.g., Geletkanycz & Black, 2001; Gersick &
Hackman, 1990).
Gersick (1994) showed that teams go through cycles of inertia and change,
and temporal milestones and specific events can initiate change in a team’s
level of reflexivity. For instance, groups often feel an urge to change things
once they reach their midpoint (i.e., halfway, a deadline). Gersick’s (1988)
elegant study of punctuated equilibrium demonstrated that project teams
reflected on how to move forward at critical times such as a project midpoint
such that habitual routines in some teams were changed as a result. The proj-
ect midpoint was characterized by a concentrated burst of changes in which
groups reflected on how to move on, sought outside information on their
progress and performance, changed their patterns, adopted new perspectives,
and made a lot of progress (Gersick, 1988). However, many work teams do
not have a finite life span, clear goals, or specific deadlines, as was the case
with the teams in Gersick’s study. Many teams lack natural breakpoints and
even midpoint reflection, if rushed or superficial, may not prevent informa-
tion-processing failures. For most teams, it may be useful to enhance the
level and focus of reflexivity so that team attention can be focused more
strongly on the temporal rhythms and patterns of its work (cf. Zellmer-Bruhn,
2003; Zellmer-Bruhn, Waller, & Ancona, 2004). Highly reflexive teams will
consider team processes (including temporal processes) and team environ-
ments, and be more likely to discuss and adapt temporal processes as needed
(cf. Bartel & Milliken, 2004).
Escalation of commitment and confirmation bias. Research on escalation of
commitment and the confirmation bias also points to failures to revise con-
clusions in the presence of new information. Escalation of commitment refers
to a tendency (by groups and organizations) to continue a chosen course of
action, even when changing to a new course would be preferable (Staw,
1981). For instance, in the 1980s and 1990s, Motorola invested 3.1 billion
U.S. dollars in a phone project involving 66 low-orbiting satellites. Although
the idea made sense at the time of inception around 1980, during the 15 years
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of development it became clear that with the arrival of cell phones the idea
had become outdated. Despite this, the project was pushed forward and the
phone was released to the market in 1998. The launch was a failure and the
company filed for bankruptcy in 1999. Periodic evaluation (i.e., reflexivity)
of the initially sound decision could have prevented this failure. Confirma-
tion bias refers to a tendency by decision makers to notice, assign more
weight to, and actively seek out evidence that confirms their hypotheses or
preferred ideas, while ignoring or failing to seek evidence that might discon-
firm the ideas (Jonas, Schulz-Hardt, Frey, & Thelen, 2001; for a review, see
Nickerson, 1998).
Escalation of commitment has been documented in teams in several stud-
ies. For instance, a study that asked MBA student teams to play a manage-
ment game showed that, despite negative performance feedback regarding
the introduction of a brand, teams would increase their resource allocation to
this brand when prior resource commitments (in this case, the proportion of
advertising expenses) were high (Lant & Hurley, 1999). Whyte (1993) argued
that the escalation of commitment bias can be explained by loss aversion in
individuals (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979), and that escalation of commitment
is generally exaggerated in groups.
These four biases and errors (habitual routines, social entrainment, escala-
tion of commitment, and confirmation bias) all represent failures to update
beliefs about the best course of action in the face of new information. For
example, the breast cancer care team may regularly have a session where
members discuss new research findings published in leading journals yet still
fail to implement changes in practice. As described next, reflexivity may
enable the team to pay explicit attention to these potential process losses.
How Team Reflexivity Can Counteract the Failure to Revise and
Team reflexivity can help mitigate the failure to revise and update conclu-
sions by encouraging or enabling explicit attention to the team’s decision-
making process. Reflexivity involves reflecting on the way decisions are
made in the team and whether the team is on track to reach its goals. Prior
research shows that attention to team decision-making processes occurs when
teams are urged to interrupt the workflow and reflect, for instance, in a time-
out. Zellmer-Bruhn (2003) suggested that the pause created by interruptions
in teamwork can be enough for the team to notice and acquire new knowl-
edge even without a deliberate search effort. This is consistent with theory on
interruptions triggering active cognitive processing and, in turn, stimulating
changes such as new routines.
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Okhuysen (2001) showed that reflexivity can be brought about by a sim-
ple intervention that instructs teams to “stop and think” in a laboratory study.
Teams with an ambiguous task (diagnosis of the causes of a salmonella out-
break in a restaurant) were given formal instructions to perform a cause and
effect analysis, leading to an interruption to the team’s work as team mem-
bers were forced to evaluate how well they were following task instructions.
Once the work was interrupted, team members also evaluated their progress
on the ambiguous task. A qualitative study of research and development
teams (Bresman, 2013) showed that changes in the teams’ routine can come
about through the process of vicarious learning. Here, vicarious learning
included learning from the experiences of other teams by first translating
them into concepts that were relevant to the team’s own work and then mak-
ing an informed decision of whether or not to change the routine on the basis
of the experience of other teams. In sum, when teams consciously reflect on
their decision-making process, the quality of decision outcomes may be
enhanced (Sitkin, 1992).
Research on de-escalation strategies intended to encourage decision mak-
ers to be appropriately responsive to available information and evidence
shows that holding individuals accountable for the decision-making process
reduces the likelihood of escalation of commitment. When individuals were
held accountable for the decision process rather than the outcome (Simonson
& Staw, 1992), escalation of commitment was less likely. Similar research, in
the motivated information-processing paradigm, showed that under condi-
tions of high process accountability (i.e., having to account for the way in
which a judgment or decision is reached) decision makers incorporate infor-
mation more fully and reflect on the information to a greater extent (Lerner
& Tetlock, 1999; Scholten, van Knippenberg, Nijstad, & De Dreu, 2007;
Tetlock, 1992).
Wittenbaum et al. (2004) presented a model in which team members’
motives and goals determine what information is mentioned, how informa-
tion is mentioned, as well as to whom information is mentioned and this, in
turn, influenced group decision quality, member influence, and member rela-
tions. Research on cognitive processing and attitudes showed that an experi-
mentally induced accuracy motivation (participants believing they would be
assessed on logic and reasoning abilities in considering the decision to raise
tuition fees) resulted in active and objective cognitive information process-
ing. In contrast, a defensive motivation (participants believing they would be
surveyed on their opinion about a controversial decision to raise tuition fees
by 30%) resulted in biased information processing. Cognitive processing of
information mediated the effect of motivation on attitudes (Lundgren &
Prislin, 1998). Finally, research among groups of physicians showed that
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748 Small Group Research 45(6)
diagnostic accuracy increased when teams considered more information, dis-
played more explicit reasoning, and talked to the room, that is, made their
thought process explicit without addressing anyone in the room in particular
(Tschan et al., 2009). Thus, explicit attention to and reflexivity on the
decision-making process brought about by interruptions, process account-
ability, and/or an accuracy motivation, has a de-biasing effect and improves
the decision-making process.
Proposition 3: Teams high on reflexivity will show more explicit attention
to the decision-making process. This, combined with an accuracy motiva-
tion, will counteract the failure to revise and update conclusions.
Proposition 4: Accountability with respect to the decision-making pro-
cess will counteract the failure to revise and update conclusions.
Interventions to Improve Team Reflexivity
Guided reflexivity (sometimes referred to as briefing/debriefing or after-
event reviews; DeRue, Nahrgang, Hollenbeck, & Workman, 2012; for a
review, see Ellis et al., 2014) may help teams avoid TIP failures. Indeed,
guided reflexivity has been associated with improved team processes and
outcomes (Vashdi, Bamberger, Erez, & Weiss-Meilik, 2007). Team feedback
may help make teams aware of information gaps and thus alter team pro-
cesses (Johnson, Hollenbeck, DeRue, Barnes, & Jundt, 2013). Prior research
shows that even simple interventions (a formal instruction to “stop and
think”) can improve team processes and performance (Okhuysen, 2001) and
that reflexivity may occur naturally at a team’s midpoint (Gersick, 1989).
Okhuysen and Waller (2002) found that semistructures, such as time pacing
and familiarity among group members increase the chances that teams will
interrupt their work to stop and think. For instance, familiarity acted as a
semistructure in that those teams interrupted their task more often to address
social needs such as joking and discussion of outside activities. Such semis-
tructures promoted the occurrence of midpoint transitions and temporal pac-
ing as the team would use the interruption to shift attention to the task process
in the group. Subsequently, those teams evaluated their work and developed
alternative future directions.
Counterfactual thinking—modifying a factual prior event and assessing
the consequences of the modification—may also help teams avoid informa-
tion-processing failures. Through reflecting on what might have been, teams
imagine other and better outcomes of certain events. This structured evalua-
tion of past events may pave the way for improved decision making (Landman,
Vandewater, Stewart, & Malley, 1995; Markman, Gavanski, Sherman, &
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McMullen, 1993; Roese, 1994, 1997; Taylor & Schneider, 1989; for a review,
see Ellis et al., 2014). For instance, the breast cancer care team opting for
more radical surgery over a medical approach to treatment may imagine the
outcome for the patient if they had opted for the less-invasive option. As a
result, the team may reevaluate their strategy in similar future cases.
Although learning from our own mistakes may be useful, recent research
suggests that learning from the TIP failures of other teams may be even more
helpful (KC, Staats, & Gino, 2013). Data from 71 surgeons who completed
more than 6,500 procedures using new technology over 10 years showed that
individuals learn more from their successes than from their failures, and yet
learn more from others’ failures than others’ successes. (Bresman, 2013)
found a similar pattern at the team level. Thus information sharing about
other team members’ failures, and reflecting on other teams’ failures, may be
a viable option to counter TIPs.
Proposition 5: Team reflexivity produced by guided reflexivity, team
feedback, and learning from other teams’ TIP failures and reflecting on
them, will enable teams to counteract TIP failures.
Reflexivity Training
Because teams (and individuals) find it difficult to reflect spontaneously, as
doing seems to get more emphasis than reflection (Di Stefano, Gino, Pisano,
& Staats, 2014; Schippers et al., 2007), it is important to train teams to be
reflexive. Several occasions are ideal for a reflexivity intervention as they are
often accompanied by higher cognitive openness of the team, for example,
interruptions, team member change, milestones, and midpoints (Silberstang
& Diamante, 2008; Zellmer-Bruhn, 2003; cf. Ford & Sullivan, 2004). Indeed,
research suggests that reflexivity type interventions are promising if imple-
mented at such times, for instance, when a team reaches a milestone (Gersick
& Hackman, 1990; Okhuysen & Eisenhardt, 2002) or a new technology is
implemented (Edmondson, Bohmer, & Pisano, 2001). Also, according to
Gersick and Hackman (1990), the amenability of routines to change varies
with the depth of the routine and the centrality of the routine to the teams’
task, and at some time points teams are more open to change than at other
times. For instance, Zellmer-Bruhn (2003) in her research among 90 intact
teams found that the pause created by interruptions in teamwork can be
enough to trigger teams in noticing and acquiring new knowledge even with-
out deliberate search. This is in line with prior theory suggesting that inter-
ruptions trigger active cognitive processing, which in turn stimulates changes
such as acquiring new routines. Okhuysen and Waller (2002) indicated that
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midpoint transitions are most common when teams were instructed to use
time management as part of their team process. However, reflexivity at natu-
ral milestones may be insufficient for preventing TIP failures in work teams
with complex tasks, and it may be useful to enhance the general level of
reflexivity in those teams. The above described results suggest that teams are
more open to change during transition phases or when the work is interrupted.
A targeted and well-timed reflexivity intervention can be used to make opti-
mal use of the time window of openness to change.
While the interventions described above were not explicitly designed to
enhance team reflexivity, recent research suggests that reflexivity can be
enhanced by means of a simple, structured intervention (Konradt, Schippers,
Garbers, & Steenfatt, 2014; see also Ellis et al., 2014). In the study by Konradt
and his colleagues, 98 student teams communicated either face-to-face or
virtually while completing a collective decision-making task. The informa-
tion distribution among team members constituted a hidden profile (i.e., some
information was known to all group members prior to the group discussion,
while other pieces of information were unshared, unique to one group mem-
ber). The reflexivity intervention instruction, handed to randomly assigned
teams after they finished the first part of the task, described three steps:
(a) reflect about expert knowledge, (b) review performance and reflect on
alternative task strategies using expert knowledge, and (c) plan a detailed
implementation strategy for the new strategy during the next phase of the
assignment. Results of this study showed that teams in the team reflexivity
condition had higher levels of reflection than teams in the control group.
Moreover, these teams were more likely to have shared mental models,
greater team adaptation, and greater improvement in team performance. This
research suggests that a simple, structured intervention may enhance team
Proposition 6: Small structured interventions will enhance reflexivity in
More generally, team training should go beyond natural milestones or
interruptions in the work to make reflexivity an ongoing process in teams.
This may occur through creating artificial milestones, or scheduling regular
time-outs, or by creating a metanorm of reflexivity to help members feel free
to ask for a time-out or call attention to doubts they have with respect to the
group’s work or if there are differences in (cross-)understanding (cf.
Edmondson, 1999, 2003; Huber & Lewis, 2010; Zellmer-Bruhn, 2003). The
role of the team leader in bringing this about is discussed in the work of
Hackman and Wageman (2005) and Wageman (2001) on team coaching.
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Team leader coaching is defined as “direct interaction with a team intended
to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of their collec-
tive resources in accomplishing the team’s work” (Hackman & Wageman,
2005, p. 269). For instance, team leaders can actively intervene and lead the
discussion as to enhance reflexivity (Hackman & Wageman, 2005). A team
leader who typically asks, “What can we learn from this?” following errors
is directly encouraging reflexivity. Gersick and Hackman (1990) suggested
that a team leader can help the team develop metaroutines, which prompt
members to initiate reevaluation of first-level routines regularly and in a
timely fashion. A team leadership style high in reflexivity will therefore
stimulate reflexivity among team members. Team leaders who themselves
reflect are also likely to encourage each member to share and discuss their
information, scan for new information, challenge framing, reveal and dis-
cuss heuristics, draw attention to potential biases, and generally encourage
the team to discuss their decision-making processes (Hackman & Wageman,
As teams are inclined to create comfort-enhancing routines, often at their
first encounter or meeting (Gersick & Hackman, 1990), it is important to
develop a norm encouraging reflexivity very early in a team’s life. Teams
whose leaders pay close attention to such team design factors may set in
motion a self-reinforcing spiral of motivated TIP and enhanced team perfor-
mance (Wageman, 2001). Also, regular interventions aimed at enhancing
team reflexivity will be needed as a team may be inclined to move to a com-
fort zone of relying on habitual routines. Regular interventions in the form of
team training may prevent teams from choosing and sticking to routines and
help teams stay reflexive instead.
Proposition 7: Creating artificial milestones, taking time-outs, and creat-
ing a metanorm of reflexivity will enhance reflexivity in teams.
Effect of organizational practices. Heath et al. (1998) described interventions
in the form of organizational practices that could repair individuals’ cognitive
shortcomings in an organization. They called these practices cognitive
repairs. An example is a technique known as the five whys, which involves
simply asking “why” 5 times in succession. This practice helps team mem-
bers to go beyond superficial causes, and prevents them from stopping gen-
erating hypotheses too soon about how to best avoid information-processing
failures. For ongoing team learning and team reflexivity, teams must develop
an ongoing way of being reflexive during, not just after, task execution to
enable a process of execution-as-learning (Edmondson, 2008). Organiza-
tional protocols such as the medical protocols for trauma situations that allow
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752 Small Group Research 45(6)
doctors to quickly collect all relevant information, not just salient informa-
tion (Heath et al., 1998), can also trigger reflexivity. Flores et al. (2012) found
that organizational practices such as participative decision making, openness,
and a learning orientation promote organizational learning. Although it seems
intuitively clear that such organizational practices will reduce the chances of
TIP failures, research in this area is still rare.
Proposition 8: Organizational (and team) practices, such as cognitive
repairs and protocols, will be related to more reflexivity and fewer TIP
Boundary Conditions Limiting the Effect of Team Reflexivity
This article has implied, thus far, that reflexivity is always helpful as an anti-
dote to TIP failures. However, we should also consider possible boundaries
and contingencies. Recent research highlighted some of these (e.g., Schippers
et al., 2013; Schippers et al., 2012). Reflection uses up time and energy of
team members and should ideally only be employed if the benefits outweigh
the costs (Schippers et al., 2013). However, there is evidence that the benefits
of reflexivity can be gained rapidly. For instance, experimental research by
Hackman, Brousseau, and Weiss (1976) showed groups that were instructed
to spend 5 min of a 35-min performance period explicitly reflecting on goals
and strategy outperformed teams that were instructed to start right away or
received no special instructions.
Early conceptualizations of team reflexivity included the idea that there
are different levels, ranging from deep to surface reflexivity (Schippers et al.,
2007; West, 2000). Surface reflexivity might manifest in seeking clarification
about the purpose of a team meeting, whereas deep reflexivity might involve
challenging assumptions about shared underlying objectives in a joint ven-
ture team. Surface reflexivity might be unhelpful in complex information-
processing situations or threatening environments when (as we suggest
above) it is used as a strategy for seeking comfort. Deep reflexivity might be
unhelpful and potentially paralyzing for teams undertaking relatively simple
and well-learned information-processing tasks (e.g., in a situation where cus-
tomers are seeking routine information quickly, think of the protracted and
unproductive examination of customer relationships that then deflect the
team from its work of delivering these services to customers). There would
be considerable value in understanding how to conceptualize depth of reflex-
ivity and in determining the situations in which surface to deep-level reflex-
ivity enable more effective TIP.
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Possible boundary conditions include a lack of motivated information pro-
cessing, the strategic orientation of a team, a ceiling effect for the usefulness
of team reflexivity, and the (limited) ability of teams to detect TIP failures.
Indeed, as Wittenbaum and her colleagues (2004) noted, motivated informa-
tion sharing in real work teams is a factor usually overlooked in information-
sharing research—typically conducted in laboratory settings (see also De
Dreu et al., 2008). De Dreu (2007) suggested that team information sharing,
learning, and effectiveness was greater under condition of perceived coopera-
tive outcome interdependence, but especially when task reflexivity was high.
The mixed-motive structure of many group tasks is extensively discussed by
De Dreu and colleagues (2008), which presents a motivated information pro-
cessing in groups model. We concur that social motivation (i.e., prosocial vs.
proself) is related to the type of information processed and can be related to
biased information processing. In general, there is a need to integrate social-
psychological perspectives on reflexivity and information processing in
teams. Recent work on intelligence teams suggest that the strategic orienta-
tion of a team influences team information gathering and processing. Work
reviewed by Hackman (2011) indicated that TIP is also influenced by the
team strategic orientation: offensive versus defensive (i.e., promotion vs. pre-
vention focus). Teams with a defensive orientation tend to focus more on
details and external information gathering, whereas teams with an offensive
orientation tend to focus more on information held by team members and
higher level outcomes (Woolley, 2011; Woolley, Bear, Chang, & DeCostanza,
2013). Furthermore, shifting between strategic orientations seemed to have
an asymmetric adaptation effect. Teams shifting from offense to defense were
better able to alter their information search behavior than teams shifting from
defense to offense (Woolley et al., 2013). This suggests that a team’s strategic
orientation strongly determines how the team searches for information and
thus influences TIP.
At the same time, there is a question of how effective extensive reflection
is for teams that already perform well. The possibility of a ceiling effect for
team reflexivity is explored by Schippers and colleagues (2013) who suggest
that groups high on reflexivity with relatively poor prior performance
improve more than reflexive high-performing groups. This may be due to
simply having more room for improvement. These findings may also apply to
TIP failures in that relatively low performing groups may profit more from
team reflexivity because their learning may translate more readily into higher
team performance.
Our final question is, “How effective are teams in recognizing the quality
of their decision-making processes?” Nemeth and Ormiston (2007) indicated
that teams with stable membership (as opposed to changing memberships)
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754 Small Group Research 45(6)
showed increased comfort and perception of creativity in idea generation but
not actual creative behavior. This suggests that team members do not always
perceive their quality of idea generation accurately and may conclude that
they are doing well.4 Another boundary condition may then be the extent to
which teams change membership, or are diverse, preventing them from
reaching this comfort zone. Research by Schippers, Den Hartog, Koopman,
and Wienk (2003) indicated that diverse teams indeed profited more from
reflexivity, at least in the beginning of their life cycle, while homogeneous
teams high on team tenure (i.e., with a high number of old-timers on the
team) seemed to profit more from team reflexivity. Homogeneity and tenure
stability may lead teams to reflect only at a surface level (West, 2000) and
seek comfort through reflexivity rather than solve problems.
Implicit in our arguments is the assumption that teams will be reasonably
accurate in recognizing effective and ineffective information-processing pro-
cesses. However, as was suggested by an anonymous reviewer, it is possible
that reflexivity could in some cases result in more biased information pro-
cessing. Indeed, key to our argumentat is that teams should also be aware of
existing biases and errors and learn to recognize them. Awareness of possible
TIP failures (i.e., biases and errors) precedes effective reflection and adapta-
tion (cf. Schippers & Hogenes, 2011). Even if teams have knowledge about
common biases and errors, this would of course not mean that they will
always be or become aware of TIP failures and, even if they are, that the
resulting decision is of high quality. However, throughout this review our
main message has been that team reflexivity increases the chances of detect-
ing these TIP failures and also increases the chance of a higher quality deci-
sion-making process and outcome.
We have proposed that reflexivity enhances team process and performance
through conscious reflection, resulting in more thorough and systematic
information processing, which in turn leads to reduced team errors and fail-
ures and an enhanced ability to adapt to change. Drawing on theories of infor-
mation processing and decision making, we presented a model that presents
team reflexivity as an aid in reducing three kinds of team failures and thereby
enhancing the quality of team decision making and team performance. Our
framework outlines three information-processing failures: (a) failure to share
and integrate relevant information, (b) failure to elaborate and derive impli-
cations from information, and (c) failure to revise and update conclusions
(see Figure 1). We argued that team reflexivity will reduce the chances of
these failures occurring. Specifically, we proposed that norms and strategies
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Schippers et al. 755
that favor critical thought and search for information, as well as process
accountability, would enhance team reflexivity and reduce the number of TIP
failures. Furthermore, we proposed that small, structured interventions aimed
at enhancing team reflexivity would be especially effective when timed well,
such as during milestones and midpoints or naturally occurring changes or
interruptions. Teams trained to be reflexive will make better use of those
transition phases and will experience less TIP failures. We furthermore pro-
posed that team practices such as cognitive repairs and protocols can enhance
team reflexivity and reduce the occurrence of TIP failures. Finally, we pro-
posed that creating artificial milestones, taking time-outs, and creating a
metanorm of reflexivity would enhance the general level of team reflexivity
and attention to possible TIP failures.
Implications for Research
Our review suggests many avenues for future research. For instance, research
has not yet established whether teams that have high rather than low levels of
reflexivity are indeed less susceptible to information-processing failures and
better able to perform than teams with low levels of reflexivity. One way to
study this is by videotaping team processes to open the black box of process
(Weingart, 1997). Lehmann-Willenbrock, Allen, and Kauffeld (2013), for
example, videotaped team meetings and showed that verbal behaviors used to
structure group discussions enhanced meeting effectiveness by promoting
proactive communication and inhibiting dysfunctional behaviors such as
complaining. Enhanced meeting effectiveness, in turn, predicted organiza-
tional effectiveness (Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012). We argue
that the content of the information, as well as the process of information
handling, should be taken into account in future studies of team processes.
Prior research has not established the best ways to stimulate reflexivity,
nor what interventions are most effective. More research is needed before we
can specify conditions and methods for optimal reflexivity interventions; this
research should include longitudinal intervention studies in field settings.
Research is also needed to determine the stages of a team’s life cycle best
suited for a reflexivity intervention (Zellmer-Bruhn et al., 2004; cf. Tschan,
McGrath, et al., 2009). For instance, if teams receive training before their
work begins, this may help build team norms of reflection. Furthermore,
project team midpoints have been shown to be a natural time for reflection
(Gersick, 1989; Okhuysen & Waller, 2002), and research may test the effects
of formal intervention to promote reflexivity at this time. Also, when a proj-
ect has finished, thorough evaluation and learning may help teams improve
future projects (Schippers et al., 2013; Tschan, McGrath, et al., 2009).
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756 Small Group Research 45(6)
Finally, research is needed to assess the optimal level of reflexivity for
groups in different settings—including how much reflexivity is too much
(distracting and slowing a team down, rather than improving performance).
This should be also assessed in relation to group affective tone (Shin, 2014).
Given the importance of information processing in knowledge-work teams,
we hope that understanding information-processing failures and ways to
overcome them, as outlined here, will help guide future research endeavors.
Implications for Practice
Practitioners who wish to structure and lead groups in ways that foster team
reflexivity may wish to train both team leaders and team members to engage
in focused, evaluative discussion of goals, processes, and outcomes. Both
should regularly assess whether or not they need new information to ensure
decision-making effectiveness. Teams should also reflect on the suitability of
current procedures—especially to ensure that sufficient attention is paid to
uniquely held information. Reflection about common TIP failures and their
manifestations is also important. Team members should be encouraged to
reflect on their objectives—their appropriateness, clarity, specificity, and
their commitment to them (DeShon, Kozlowski, Schmidt, Milner, &
Wiechmann, 2004; Widmeyer & Ducharme, 1997). Team members should
also regularly review decision processes and changes in their environment
that have implications for the team’s work (West, 2000).
Reflexivity, we propose, is the most important intervention a team can
routinely employ to improve its performance. Of course, reflexivity is not
an end in itself; it must translate into action or change. West (1996, 2000)
emphasized that team innovation and effectiveness improve when reflex-
ivity leads to planning and action by team members. Planning is a crucial
step between reflection and adaptation (Gollwitzer, 1996); the more effec-
tive the planning, the more subsequent adaptation can lead to improved
team performance or innovation. Adaptation means changing the team’s
objectives, strategies, processes, or environment. Because teams are
inclined to quickly create comfort-enhancing routines, often at a first
encounter (Gersick & Hackman, 1990), it is important to develop a meta-
norm encouraging reflexivity early in a team’s life. For virtual teams,
meeting face-to-face prior to working at a distance can be very helpful
(Hertel, Geister, & Konradt, 2005). Also, regular interventions to enhance
team reflexivity can prevent teams from relying excessively on habitual
routines. Regular interventions (e.g., training, time-outs, creating artificial
milestones) may prevent teams from sticking to routines and help them
stay reflexive.
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Schippers et al. 757
Recent research highlights the role of the team leader in setting the stage
for a shared team vision (i.e., social sharedness), enhanced reflexivity and,
ultimately, enhanced team performance (Schippers, Den Hartog, Koopman,
& van Knippenberg, 2008). Gersick and Hackman (1990) suggested that a
team leader might also help the team to develop metaroutines, which prompt
members to initiate reevaluation of first-level routines regularly.
Finally, laboratory research on student teams facing complex problem-
solving tasks suggests that reflexivity (in the form of stop and think) can be
enhanced by formal instructions (Okhuysen, 2001). Field research suggested
that reflexivity could be enhanced through a relatively modest intervention
(Schippers, 2003). Teams that received a 4-hr training session showed
improved reflexivity 6 months later. It is likely that more extensive training
combined with regular follow-up might be even more effective.
We have emphasized that team reflexivity can help counteract TIP failures and
thereby aid the decision-making process in teams operating in a demanding,
knowledge-intensive environment. We also proposed a model of information-
processing failures and remedies that foster team reflexivity. Our aim is to aid
researchers and practitioners who wish to further explore and apply team reflex-
ivity. Teamwork is important in many areas of human endeavor, and mistakes
can be costly or even fatal. Reflexivity can be a powerful way of overcoming the
problems inherent in team-based knowledge work. The human capacity to
reflect is a valuable but often underutilized resource (Ellis et al., 2014). Using
reflection to overcome group information-processing failures can enable team
productivity, innovation, and effectiveness. We hope this article serves as a call
to study the conscious use of reflexivity in settings in which people are working
to achieving shared goals. The arguments and propositions presented here are
intended to spur new research and new understanding of the mechanisms that
underlie team reflexivity and its role in mitigating TIP failures.
The authors wish to thank members of the Groups Seminar at Harvard University,
Felix Brodbeck, Scott Tindale, two anonymous reviewers, and the editor of Small
Group Research, Joann Keyton, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
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758 Small Group Research 45(6)
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Erasmus
University Trust Fund (Grant 97095.87/09.1459).
1. Besides this tendency to amplify, Hinsz, Tindale, and Vollrath (1997), also note
a group accentuation pattern, that is, if a bias or error in information processing
is unlikely among individuals (e.g., in less than half of the sample), groups are
even less likely to process information in such a way. The tendency to amplify
only holds for common biases and errors.
2. To summarize the story that Senge (1990) popularized, a frog placed in a pan
filled with boiling water jumps out immediately, a natural lifesaving reflex. If,
in contrast, the frog sits in a pan filled with cool water that is heated gradually,
apparently the frog will cook, never recognizing the need for escape.
3. The term entrainment, borrowed from the biological sciences, refers to the phe-
nomenon in which one cyclic process becomes captured by, and set to oscillate
in rhythm with, another, initially independent, process (McGrath & Kelly, 1986).
Examples are physiological processes such as body temperature and activity
cycles, which become coupled to each other and the 24-hr clock.
4. The authors thank an anonymous reviewer of Small Group Research for suggest-
ing this line of reasoning.
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Author Biographies
Michaéla C. Schippers is an associate professor of leadership and management at the
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
She holds a PhD in organizational behavior from the Free University in Amsterdam.
Her current research interests include team reflexivity, team diversity, team cognition,
goal-setting, and behavioral operations management.
Amy C. Edmondson is the Novartis professor of leadership and management at the
Harvard Business School, United States. She studies leadership, teams, and organiza-
tional learning, and is the author of Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate
and Compete in the Knowledge Economy (Jossey-Bass, 2012). She holds a PhD in
organizational behavior from Harvard University.
Michael A. West is a professor of organizational psychology at Lancaster University
Management School, emeritus professor at Aston University, and senior fellow at The
King’s Fund, London, United Kingdom. His research focuses on culture, teams, inno-
vation and performance, and on the organization and delivery of health services.
at Erasmus Univ Rotterdam on November 18, 2014sgr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... In this regard, theories of team reflexivity differentiate qualitatively different levels, ranging from deep to surface (Schippers et al., 2007;West, 2000). Transfer appropriate processing theory (Craik & Lockhart, 1972) would suggest that surface (shallow) reflexivity should be more effective and efficient for teams that work in relatively routine task environments, whereas deeper reflexivity should be most effective in rapidly changing environments (Schippers et al., 2014). These propositions have largely gone untested to date since empirical research on team reflexivity has almost exclusively employed measures of frequency rather than depth (Konradt et al., 2016). ...
... Instead, their selective attention is more consistent with the tradition of accident investigations which notoriously fixate on the most proximal action to a decision-making failure (Reason, 1994). As expected, teams in chronological debriefings appear to have largely spent their time "evaluating finished business" and "closely related issues," consistent with the definition of shallow reflexivity (Schippers et al., 2014). A qualitative review of transcripts from chronological debriefings revealed that nearly all the problems raised for discussion by team members were closely tied to the outcome of the event being debriefed. ...
... Chronological debriefings have been described as a method of choice when time to debrief is limited (Allen et al., 2010). This is often the case when teams debrief (e.g., Allen et al., 2018;Schippers et al., 2014;Stoto et al., 2019). However, our results suggest that the habitual use of chronological debriefings for the sake of expediency may inadvertently create a norm of shallow reflexivity and employee perceptions of climate that discourage employee voice. ...
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Team debriefings are structured interventions in which teams reflect on their past performance, adapt, and plan for future events. Results from meta-analyses indicate that team debriefings are effective in improving task performance (Keiser & Arthur, Journal of Applied Psychology, 106(7), 1007–1032, 2021, Journal of Business and Psychology, 37(5), 953–976, 2022; Tannenbaum & Cerasoli, Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, 55(1), 231–245, 2013). Although far less often studied, there is also some evidence to suggest that team debriefings (compared to no debriefings) can be used to develop norms for open communication (Jarrett et al., Human Performance, 29(5), 408-427, 2016; Villado & Arthur, Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(3), 514-528, 2013). However, there is currently a dearth of quantitative evidence to guide practitioners in selecting from the myriad methods available to achieve this purpose. Grounded in theory and research on episodic models of team performance (Marks et al., Academy of Management Review, 26(3), 356-376, 2001) and the Motivated Information Processing in Groups model (MIP-G) (De Dreu et al., Personality and Social Psychology Review, 12(1), 22–49, 2008), we conducted a quasi-experiment which compared two debriefing methods. The first, a chronological debriefing, emphasizes outcome accountability and makes competitive interdependence salient, whereas the second method, Team Dimensional Training (TDT), emphasizes process accountability and makes cooperative interdependence salient. Data from 76 flight controllers at Johnson Space Center indicated that the communication climate in TDT debriefings was perceived to be more open than was the climate in chronological debriefings. Analyses of coded transcripts from 69 debriefings revealed that teams engaged in deeper reflexivity when the TDT method was used than they did when the chronological method was used.
... In contrast, these findings indicate that design thinking-based learning may help students to reframe complexity related failures as praiseworthy attempts at learning and as positive forms of social practice (as outlined in Figure 8, below) -rewiring students' beliefs about the blameworthiness or praiseworthiness of different forms of failure, and enabling them to position a wider (and more learning focused) spectrum of failure-forms within the framework of praiseworthy intelligent and complexity related challenges (using the spectrum proposed by Edmondson in 2012). This appears to be a function of, as Schippers et al. (2014) predicted, the generative practice of team reflexivity: a practice which forms a central component of the design thinking-based learning process. In many aspects of their learning journey, students are penalized for failing and for attempting iterative, prototyped or pilot focused forms of threshold concept acquisition. ...
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Meaningful and impactful learning experiences are rife with failure. And yet, students struggle with framing, tolerating and attributing failure in a positive manner within the post secondary learning context. This paper explores whether using design thinking as a pedagogical approach might help students learn to tolerate, reframe and attribute failure in a more productive way. Findings from this comparative study of 600 undergraduate business students enrolled in a common first year marketing class reveal the ways in which design thinking-based learning approaches might be used to re-orient student’s conceptions of failure as a part of their creative problem-solving skill development process. Students were surveyed to learn more about how they perceived the concept of failure within their learning, to whom they attributed failures within their learning, and how well they tolerated failure as a part of their learning experience. Results from the nearly 400 responses to the online survey suggest that integrating design thinking focused approaches to learning into the post secondary classroom has a positive impact on the development of a student’s self-reported failure tolerance and may change the way that failure is attributed and framed in students’ descriptions of their individual learning. I find that design thinking-based learning might be used as an effective pedagogical approach in classes where the development of a failure-positive mindset is considered an essential competency or learning objective, and I offer practical recommendations for educators seeking to develop a failure-positive mindset within their learning communities.
... Each player goes in turn, but they can freely discuss each other's actions. Half the teams had a minimal team training intervention before the first game, which involved a review of teamwork concepts based on a needs analysis (Gregory et al., 2013) and a reflection exercise after the first game (Schippers et al., 2014). Neither this experimental intervention nor a balanced order variable for the two games had significant effects on any of the entrainment variables, so they were not included in these analyses. ...
This study introduces the concept of acoustic-prosodic entrainment (ways people speak similarly). We review prior research on entrainment theory and methods from computational linguistics, and then apply this concept to team research by examining the relationship between team personality composition and subsequent entrainment in an exploratory case study. With 62 teams playing a cooperative board game, team average Agreeableness and team Agreeableness diversity positively, and Openness to Experience diversity negatively, preceded different kinds of entrainment. This study suggests entrainment is not a singular construct. Small group researchers could leverage technological, methodological, and conceptual advances in computational linguistics to study emergent team processes.
How can teams make sense of a complex organizational transformation and be ready to change? These questions must be addressed as organizations turn towards team-based structures to become more reactive. During organizational transformations, we argue team reflexivity enables team members to share interpretations of changes, leading to the development of team change vision—the overarching sense of direction for simultaneous change initiatives. We further argue that team reflexivity is more effective for teams with greater team tenure dispersion and additive team tenure. We tested and found support for our theory using time-lagged, survey-based data from 70 teams at a Canadian governmental organization. Overall, our study contributes to team readiness to change literature by identifying team reflexivity as a central information-processing activity enabling teams to develop a team change vision during an organizational transformation and by clarifying the effect of team tenure on such activity.
Drawing on the team‐member exchange theory, in this paper, we examine how the knowledge‐based three team capabilities (team knowledge management capacity, team absorptive capacity, adaptive team capacity), when shared among team members, will influence the effectiveness of team decision‐making and team innovation. The study was conducted in Indian organizations. Data collected from 112 team members (with experience in innovation projects) were analyzed using structural equation modeling and bootstrapping procedure. The findings reveal that team members' capability (knowledge management capacity, adaptive capacity) plays a significant role in team innovation when there is team decision‐making. However, the study found no significant relationship between absorptive capacity and team innovation. The study contributes to the literature on team innovation by offering fresh insights into how the high‐quality Team‐member exchange leads to better capitalization of distinct team capabilities leading to effective team decision‐making, culminating in the generation of creative and novel ideas and solutions.
Scholars have long been intrigued by the relationship between intrateam conflict and team creativity, though findings to date have been mixed. Recent research suggests that traditional conceptualizations of intrateam conflict as a property that is shared uniformly by team members (e.g., averaging members' overall conflict perceptions), rather than a more nuanced phenomenon between individual members with unique network positions, have limited our understanding of its influences. These advances, however, have yet to be substantively applied to the intrateam conflict‐creativity literature. Accordingly, we integrate network views of conflict with creativity theory and group motivated processing models to explore how task and relationship conflicts involving critical members' (i.e., members central to a team's workflow network) influence team creative functioning beyond overall conflict perceptions. We theorize that critical member task conflict is positively associated with team creativity by way of team reflexivity, and this positive indirect effect is accentuated by team shared goals. Further, we posit that critical member relationship conflict is negatively associated with team creativity by way of reduced team cohesion, though this effect is mitigated by critical member emotional intelligence. Analyses of 70 new product development teams support most hypotheses while also highlighting interesting nuance and future research opportunities.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to examine the effect of leader humility on team reflexivity. This study also investigates the mediating role of relation-oriented shared leadership and the moderating role of leader trust. Design/methodology/approach This study collected data from the information technology (IT) service provider of a large telecommunications company in South Korea. A total of 311 employees (individual response rate of 31.2%) in 59 teams (team response rate of 83.01%) were included in the final analysis. Several hierarchical regression analyses and PROCESS macro were used. Findings The results indicate that leaders’ humble behaviour is positively associated with team reflexivity and facilitates relation-oriented shared leadership among team members, particularly when they have a higher level of affect-based trust in leaders. Practical implications This study may help researchers and practitioners better understand the conditions influencing the impact of leader humility on team members’ behaviour. Originality/value The main value of this study is to add to the knowledge on team reflexivity by identifying leader humility as a critical factor affecting team reflexivity. Furthermore, this study provides a deeper understanding of why leader humility influences team reflexivity.
Communication—the conversations, connections, and combinations that bring new insights to complex problems—is at the heart of successful crossdisciplinary collaboration (National Academy of Sciences, Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research and Committee on Science Engineering and Public Policy (NAS), (2004). Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research. National Academies Press, Washington, DC). In the spirit of “practice makes permanent”, teams will benefit from practicing structured dialogue in which deep engagement with one’s collaborators is the norm rather than the exception. This type of practice can help teams create a dialogical communication culture that establishes deep listening and close engagement as community norms. In this chapter, the authors describe the Toolbox dialogue method, a specific approach to structured dialogue designed to encourage a dialogical communication culture. Instructions are provided for using the Toolbox dialogue method, which can support teams in working through challenges and successfully pursuing project objectives in practice sessions as brief as 10 minutes.KeywordsCollaborationDialogueReflexivityPerspective takingInterdisciplinaryToolbox
Humor is a key indicator of the health of work groups, including during times of crisis. Moreover, studies of newly formed groups show that the type of humor used can change as members of a group get to know one another and form bonds. Yet in the context of a relatively established work group, can the nature of the group’s humor evolve in response to a crisis? We address this question in the context of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), examining whether the FOMC was able to pivot its use of humor following the 2007 financial crash. As hypothesized, we find a post-crash increase in “affiliative” humor in general, and “playful banter” specifically, indicating effective group dynamics among members (which bodes well for the global economy). The FOMC thus offers evidence that established work groups can use humor as a dynamic mechanism for adapting to new circumstances.
Decision speed and quality are both vital for organizational survival and prosperity. However, they are assumed to be in tension, and there has been limited theory development concerning whether, and if so how, both are attainable. To address this gap, we turn to behavioral integration which captures the intensity of intrateam interactions. While behavioral integration is considered an antecedent of decision quality, it is presumed to slow decision‐making, and overall, there remains a “black box” surrounding the mechanisms, behaviors, and processes which transmit behavioral integration to decision outcomes. Our theoretical account challenges the notion of behavioral integration being an impediment to decision speed, and we present new theory and evidence—comprising a mixed‐method field study—explaining how behavioral integration acts as a key driver of both decision speed and quality while theorizing decision uncertainty as a new and important boundary condition.
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Several hypotheses derived from an information sampling model of group discussion were tested with 3-person teams of physicians given 2 hypothetical medical cases to diagnose. Some of the information about each case was given to all 3 team members before discussion (shared information), whereas the rest was divided among them (unshared information). As predicted, shared information was, overall, more likely to be discussed than unshared information, and it was brought into discussion earlier. In addition, it was found that team leaders repeated substantially more case information than did other members and that, over time, they repeated unshared information at a steadily increasing rate. The latter findings are interpreted as evidence of leaders' information management role in problem-solving discussions.
Counterfactuals are mental representations of alternatives to the past and produce consequences that are both beneficial and aversive to the individual. These apparently contradictory effects are integrated into a functionalist model of counterfactual thinking. The author reviews research in support of the assertions that (a) counterfactual thinking is activated automatically in response to negative affect, (b) the content of counterfactuals targets particularly likely causes of misfortune, (c) counterfactuals produce negative affective consequences through a contrast-effect mechanism and positive inferential consequences through a causal-inference mechanism, and (d) the net effect of counterfactual thinking is beneficial.
We discuss the cognitive and the psy- chophysical determinants of choice in risky and risk- less contexts. The psychophysics of value induce risk aversion in the domain of gains and risk seeking in the domain of losses. The psychophysics of chance induce overweighting of sure things and of improbable events, relative to events of moderate probability. De- cision problems can be described or framed in multiple ways that give rise to different preferences, contrary to the invariance criterion of rational choice. The pro- cess of mental accounting, in which people organize the outcomes of transactions, explains some anomalies of consumer behavior. In particular, the acceptability of an option can depend on whether a negative outcome is evaluated as a cost or as an uncompensated loss. The relation between decision values and experience values is discussed. Making decisions is like speaking prose—people do it all the time, knowingly or unknowingly. It is hardly surprising, then, that the topic of decision making is shared by many disciplines, from mathematics and statistics, through economics and political science, to sociology and psychology. The study of decisions ad- dresses both normative and descriptive questions. The normative analysis is concerned with the nature of rationality and the logic of decision making. The de- scriptive analysis, in contrast, is concerned with peo- ple's beliefs and preferences as they are, not as they should be. The tension between normative and de- scriptive considerations characterizes much of the study of judgment and choice. Analyses of decision making commonly distin- guish risky and riskless choices. The paradigmatic example of decision under risk is the acceptability of a gamble that yields monetary outcomes with specified probabilities. A typical riskless decision concerns the acceptability of a transaction in which a good or a service is exchanged for money or labor. In the first part of this article we present an analysis of the cog- nitive and psychophysical factors that determine the value of risky prospects. In the second part we extend this analysis to transactions and trades. Risky Choice Risky choices, such as whether or not to take an umbrella and whether or not to go to war, are made without advance knowledge of their consequences. Because the consequences of such actions depend on uncertain events such as the weather or the opponent's resolve, the choice of an act may be construed as the acceptance of a gamble that can yield various out- comes with different probabilities. It is therefore nat- ural that the study of decision making under risk has focused on choices between simple gambles with monetary outcomes and specified probabilities, in the hope that these simple problems will reveal basic at- titudes toward risk and value. We shall sketch an approach to risky choice that