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Unraveling the effects of cultural diversity in teams: a meta-analysis of research on multicultural work groups

Author: Stahl, Günter K. ; Maznevski, Martha L. ; Voigt, Andreas ; Jonsen, KarstenINSEAD Area: Organisational BehaviourIn: Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 41, no. 4, May 2010 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 690-709.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: Previous research on the role of cultural diversity in teams is equivocal, suggesting that cultural diversity's effect on teams is mediated by specific team processes, and moderated by contextual variables. To reconcile conflicting perspectives and past results, we propose that cultural diversity affects teams through process losses and gains associated with increased divergence and decreased convergence. We examine whether the level (surface-level vs deeplevel) and type (cross-national vs intra-national) of cultural diversity affect these processes differently. We hypothesize that task complexity and structural aspects of the team, such as team size, team tenure, and team dispersion, moderate the effects of cultural diversity on teams. We test the hypotheses with a meta-analysis of 108 empirical studies on processes and performance in 10,632 teams. Results suggest that cultural diversity leads to process losses through task conflict and decreased social integration, but to process gains through increased creativity and satisfaction. The effects are almost identical for both levels and types of cultural diversity. Moderator analyses reveal that the effects of cultural diversity vary, depending on contextual influences, as well as on research design and sample characteristics. We propose an agenda for future research, and identify implications for managers.
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Previous research on the role of cultural diversity in teams is equivocal, suggesting that cultural diversity's effect on teams is mediated by specific team processes, and moderated by contextual variables. To reconcile conflicting perspectives and past results, we propose that cultural diversity affects teams through process losses and gains associated with increased divergence and decreased convergence. We examine whether the level (surface-level vs deeplevel) and type (cross-national vs intra-national) of cultural diversity affect these processes differently. We hypothesize that task complexity and structural aspects of the team, such as team size, team tenure, and team dispersion, moderate the effects of cultural diversity on teams. We test the hypotheses with a meta-analysis of 108 empirical studies on processes and performance in 10,632 teams. Results suggest that cultural diversity leads to process losses through task conflict and decreased social integration, but to process gains through increased creativity and satisfaction. The effects are almost identical for both levels and types of cultural diversity. Moderator analyses reveal that the effects of cultural diversity vary, depending on contextual influences, as well as on research design and sample characteristics. We propose an agenda for future research, and identify implications for managers.

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