Identity asymmetries: an experimental investigation of social identity and information exchange in multiteam systems

Julija N. Mell, Leslie A. Dechurch, Roger T.H.A.J. Leenders, Noshir Contractor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Many complex organizational tasks are performed by networks of teams, or “multiteam systems.” A critical challenge in multiteam systems is how to promote information exchange across teams. In three studies, we investigate how identity “asymmetries”—differences between teams in terms of whether the team or overarching system constitutes their primary focus of identification—affect interteam information sharing and performance. In Study 1, we manipulate teams’ foci of identification (team vs. system focused) in a sample of 84 five-member teams working in one of 21 four-team multiteam systems performing a computer strategy simulation. We find that, while system-focused teams shared information equally with all teams, team-focused teams shared less information with system-focused teams than they did with other team-focused teams. Interteam information sharing positively predicted interteam performance. In Study 2, we test the assumptions underlying our theory in a vignette experiment, demonstrating that team-focused individuals adopt instrumental motives toward interteam interaction. Finally, in Study 3, we investigate the implications of system composition in terms of team identity foci by means of a simulation study based on the empirical results of Study 1. The results of the simulation yield novel propositions about the nonlinear effects of social identity in multiteam systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1561-1590
Number of pages30
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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