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Sixty-fifth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management

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Increasingly organizations are utilizing geographically distributed teams to accomplish their goals. To a great extent this new way of working has been made possible by electronic communication technology. Yet even while managers are leveraging electronic communication technology to gain access to new knowledge and to enable new team configurations, they are concerned about the knowledge acquisition of distributed team members who interact primarily via electronic communication. The objective of this study is to deepen our understanding of the relationship of electronic communication technology use and team configuration with knowledge access in distributed teams. We do so by examining the communication networks of individuals in distributed teams, and the relationship of team configuration on those networks. We extend prior work on social networks and propose that individuals in distributed teams have two distinct communication networks that influence knowledge access: face-to-face and electronic networks. We find that these two networks differentially influence an individual’s level of knowledge access from team members. In addition, we find that the relationship of each of these networks with knowledge access level is influenced by how the team is physically configured and the size of the team. These findings suggest that achieving higher knowledge access levels in distributed teams is more complex than just increasing electronic and face-to-face communication. Rather it involves understanding how communication patterns, communication mode and team configuration interact to influence the level of knowledge access for each individual in the team


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