3D Collaborative Virtual Environments: Exploring the Link between Collaborative Behaviors and Team Performance

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Authors: M.M. Montoya

Publication Year: 2011

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1540-5915.2011.00318.x/full

Journal: Decision Sciences

Volume: 42

Issue: 2

Categories: Information Management, Collaboration, Organizational Change


Increasingly, organizational work is conducted by virtual teams interacting across boundaries of space and time. Despite advances in collaborative technologies, members of virtual teams often find the experience challenging and a far cry from physically “being there.” In response, immersive and interactive three-dimensional collaborative virtual environments (3D CVEs) are emerging and purported to address the shortcoming of earlier technologies. How teams will interact and ultimately perform in a 3D environment remains to be seen. In this study, drawing from group and communication theories, we explore the link between collaborative behaviors and the performance of virtual teams working in a 3D CVE. We report on the results of a controlled experiment consisting of 39 virtual teams of 91 individuals. The experiment consisted of putting a puzzle together from 3D cubes using keyboards. Through cluster analysis, we identify distinct patterns of collaborative behaviors associated with differential levels of performance. Our findings provide a deeper understanding of how the unique spatial and visual characteristics of 3D CVEs may transform virtual work.

Critical Reflection

The article of Montoya et al. describes a very important experiment aiming to find out the relation between collaborative behaviors and team performance in 3D CVEs. The article is related to virtual organizations, I decided to reflect on this topic, because as I found out, much less literature is dealing with this problem than organizational change and the adaptive cycle, while virtual organizations and virtual working environments are connected to many up-to-date problems and issues to be discussed. Additionally, organizational change can easily lead to the usage of virtual environments. Unfortunately I cannot really compare it to the lecture materials of Professor Afsarmanesh’s, as classes about virtual organizations are going to be held in the following two weeks and the materials are still not available on Blackboard, but as the article talks about virtual environments and team effectiveness, it has a multiple connection with the course. Globalization has a huge effect on organizations, more and more companies follow green strategies, meaning reducing traveling costs and CO2 emission in the same time. Locations are not important to big organizations anymore, multinational corporations can profit a lot from effectively working 3D CVEs. In my opinion, to make a virtual organization work, one of the most important tasks is to give the employees the opportunity to work together most efficiently and most effectively, and to reach great performance with an easy way of communication, adequate contribution and the right coordination. In the article they set four hypotheses, which from they could prove three, namely: Greater ease of communication by teams in 3D CVEs will be associated with greater team performance. More equal contributions by members of teams in 3D CVEs will be associated with greater team performance. Better coordination among members of teams in 3D CVEs will be associated with greater team performance. As this article proved the hypotheses mentioned above, further researches can concentrate on how to reach better ease of communication, more equal contributions and better coordination as it will directly lead to greater team performance according to the experiment. As in the experiment they only used Linden’s Lab’s Second Life platform (this is the platform IBM is using as well for new employee training, conferences, and client engagement), much more further research is needed in order to investigate how performance in other 3D CVEs could be improved. The article also does not detail enough, what kind of collaborative tasks work well in a 3D CVE and which ones do not. As for example, some teams could work together well on solving a 3D puzzle, for more complicated and complex tasks, it is not guaranteed that this type of virtual environment is adequate. 3D CVEs vary from reality a lot and also different types of organizations and workflows all require different kind of virtual environments. Cost efficiency is also a further problem to investigate as the paper does not discuss it. How much would it cost to buy a whole 3D CVE system? Is it more efficient if corporations run these platforms only in the cloud? Or does it depend on the size of the company? Or the market they operate in? These are also questions to be researched further, because in my opinion, virtual organizations will completely rule the future (they already do nowadays, but there need to be more ways to investigate how to gain performance, effectiveness and efficiency in these organizations).