Being ambidextrous : the value of virtuality in teams
Team structures and technology-mediated communications have experienced a welldocumented
growth in popularity because of their perceived value in delivering
productivity. The nexus of these trends, the concept of the "virtual team", might
therefore be expected to have clear benefits in comparison to "traditional" teams.
However, research has been equivocal in its findings, and in practice "pure" virtual
teams, in which members never meet face-to-face, have been rare. Equally, teams that
only work face-to-face have become rare, so some researchers have begun to adopt a
perspective in which "virtuality" is seen as a characteristic of all teams. Adopting this
perspective here, the research reported in this thesis addresses the question of how
virtuality in teams contributes to organisational value. Considering teamwork as an
intangible asset understood as a form of intellectual capital the research question is
posed as: how does virtuality in teams affect the development of intellectual capital?
Reviewing the virtual team literature highlights the direction of its development and
the gap in understanding that led to the research question. It also provided the roots
for the further development of the concept of virtuality in teams. Here it is defined as
"virtual continuities" that mediate the effects of discontinuities, such as those created
by geography, time, culture, organisations, technology and working practices.
Reviewing the literature on intellectual capital, a multi-level model was alsodeveloped
in which teamwork was defined as intellectual capital at the team level and
comprised of human capital, social capital and structural capital dimensions.
Drawing on these two concepts, a team process model and conceptual framework of
virtuality were created to provide a focus for the collection and analysis of qualitative
data using a case study methodology. The setting for this was an inter-organisational
entity, spanning the government, commercial and academic sectors, consisting of
teams researching technology and the systems engineering of intelligent systems.
The analysis of data from the case study supported the conceptual developments but
also pointed to the need to enhance them to capture the importance of discontinuities
created by a team's task, membership and temporal boundaries; their effects on the
development of intellectual capital; and the role of virtuality in mediating these
effects. Returning to the literature, an explanation of the nature of the mediating effect
of virtuality on discontinuities was developed using the concept of contextual
ambidexterity as the basis for answering the research question.