Does nationality matter in transnational teams? Conceptualizing barriers to knowledge seeking
In contrast to prevailing theories that emphasize the importance of nationality differences in transnational teams, we argue that there are multiple differences that can hinder collaboration among transnational team members. Distinguishing person-based from position-based differences, we theorize that nationality differences impede knowledge seeking across cultures as well as geographies, due to biases that deter knowledge seeking from team members who are different. Beyond nationality differences, however, we propose that demographic differences and structural differences also create barriers to knowledge seeking within transnational teams. While prior research has examined diversity among transnational team members at the group level of analysis, we use hierarchical linear modeling to study 13,540 dyadic interactions among 2,059 members of 276 teams in a large multinational corporation. Our findings reveal that cultural, geographic, and demographic differences all matter, but that structural differences create the greatest barriers to knowledge seeking among team members. The results further show that working together on a previous team can mitigate the negative effects of member differences, indicating that increased mutual knowledge can reduce the biases that deter knowledge seeking. Our discussion emphasizes that formal organizational structure shapes collaboration more fundamentally than the distinctive cultural and geographic features of transnational teams that preoccupy most current studies, and we address additional implications for theory and research.
Academy of Management 2008 Annual Meeting: the Questions We Ask, Aom 2008