Ishani Aggarwal is a doctoral candidate at the Tepper School of Business, Carnegie Mellon University studying organizational behavior. Her research explores cognitive diversity, learning, creativity, execution and coordination in teams.
Dissertation title: Cognitive Style Diversity in Teams
Abstract: In my dissertation, I undertake the study of cognitive style diversity in teams. Cognitive styles are psychological dimensions that (i) represent consistencies in how individuals acquire and process information and (ii) distinguish between individuals from different educational and functional areas. They constitute an important, though largely underrepresented, area of team research. I investigate the relationship between cognitive style diversity and team performance on tasks that impose different demands on teams-execution, creativity and coordination. Across the different studies, I identify important processes such as team strategic focus, strategic consensus and learning that further explain this relationship. The studies move the ongoing debate about whether and how cognitive diversity is beneficial and detrimental to team performance forward by exploring task contexts that benefit from diversity, and those that do not. Finally, I highlight one effective way to optimize the opposing forces that make diversity a challenging phenomenon to study, thus attempting to move the debate toward a resolution.
Do you see what I see?
The Effect of Members. Cognitive Styles on Team Processes and Errors in Task Execution
This research investigates the effect of members. cognitive styles on team processes that affect errors in execution tasks. In two laboratory studies, we investigate how the team.s composition based on cognitive styles of members, specifically object and spatial visualization, affects the team.s strategic focus and strategic consensus, and how those affect the team.s commission of errors. Study 1, conducted with 70 dyads performing a navigation and identification task, establishes that teams high in spatial visualization are more process-focused than teams high in object visualization; process focus, which pertains to a team.s attention to the details of conducting a task, is associated with fewer errors. Study 2, conducted with 64 teams performing a building task, establishes that heterogeneity in cognitive style is negatively associated with formation of strategic consensus, which has a direct and meditating relationship with errors. Errors have crucial implications for many real-life organizational teams carrying out execution tasks.
Learning How to Coordinate: The Effects of Cognitive Diversity on Collective Intelligence and Team Learning
The performance of groups is becoming increasingly central to the effectiveness of many sectors of society. We investigate the effects of a group.s cognitive diversity on two measures of group performance: (1) collective intelligence, a novel measure of the group.s ability to perform well across a wide array of tasks, and (2) team learning, the rate at which the group improves on tacit coordination among its members. We find an inverted U-shaped relationship between a group.s cognitive diversity and its collective intelligence, with moderate levels of cognitive diversity leading to the highest collective intelligence. We also find that just as individual intelligence correlates with individual learning ability, a group.s collective intelligence is correlated with faster team learning. Finally, we find that cognitive diversity negatively moderates the relationship between collective intelligence and team learning, such that groups that are lower in cognitive diversity learn more rapidly. The implications of the findings are discussed in the paper.
Cognitive Resource Concentration and Versatility: A New Lens for Understanding Team Diversity
Cognitive diversity in teams is associated with both benefits and costs, and increasing the benefits without increasing the associated costs is a challenge. In this paper, we provide a new lens for looking at team diversity by analyzing ways in which cognitive resources are distributed in teams. The novelty, and importance, of this approach is additionally established when we demonstrate that the existing ways of capturing team diversity are insufficiently sensitive to how resources and divergence are configured. We explore the construct of cognitive style versatility as a way of capturing the concentration of resources in a team. In a laboratory setting, we find evidence for the proposition that the presence of cognitively versatile members is positively associated with improved team performance over time, above and beyond what is explained by standard ways of capturing diversity. We find that the positive impact of versatile members on performance in coordination and execution tasks is facilitated by process learning. We discuss the implications of this work in moving the diversity debate toward a resolution.