University of North Carolina professor of information and technology management Arvind Malhotra studied 54 global virtual teams in 31 companies, from Intel to Royal Dutch Shell, with a suprising finding:
These virtual teams, largely composed of people who have never met, were not only productive but also more innovative than "face-to-face teams."
"They make decisions faster with more input from others and develop policies that are implemented worldwide with fewer problems than conventional teams," said Malhotra.
His research also dispells myths of virtual teams:
Myth: Far-flung teams are deployed to save money on travel. Truth: High-performing global teams are measured on faster, better responses to rapidly changing environments.
Myth: Far-flung teams require hands-off leadership.
Truth: These teams require communication-intensive leaders. These team leaders check in on each of their members frequently, mentor them, and establish and communicate team norms.
Myth: Global team leaders don't deal directly with diversity.
Truth: Far-flung team leaders handle diversity purposefully, recognizing it early in the team's life cycle and leveraging it throughout the team's life cycle.
Myth: Face-to-face meetings are required early in a far-flung team's life cycle to build trust.
Truth: Global teams build trust through a planned team communication strategy and frequent in-process, team-tuning sessions mostly without ever meeting.
Myth: Given the restrictions of time and space differences, far-flung teams are best served by allocating one task to every member.
Truth: Far-flung teams build trust and simulate intellectual growth by pairing diverse members into subteams that perform highly interdependent tasks.
This is consistent with our experience that working virtually is simply more productive and innovative.