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Research Abstracts Online
January 2009 - March 2010

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Curtis L. Carlson School of Management
Department of Information and Decision Sciences

PI: Yuqing Ren

Effects of Diversity on Group Productivity and Turnover in Online Collaboration

Recent development in information technologies has enabled various forms of online collaboration within and outside of organizational boundaries. The "wisdom of crowds” argument emphasizes the importance of diversity in online collaboration, such as developing open-source software or writing Wikipedia articles. Decades of research on diversity in offline work groups, however, has painted an inconclusive picture. The optimistic view argues that a broader range of insights from a diverse group can lead to improved outcomes, whereas the pessimistic view argues that individual differences can lead to conflict and diminished performance. This research examines the effects of group diversity on the amount of work accomplished and on member withdrawal behaviors in WikiProjects collaboration. The researchers have found that increased tenure diversity improves both productivity and member retention—up to a point. Beyond that point, group productivity remains high, but members are more likely to withdraw. Strikingly, no such diminishing returns property was observed for interest diversity, which also improves both productivity and member retention. The results suggest that the low visibility of individual differences in online groups may allow them to harvest more of the benefits of diversity while bearing less of the cost, which extend diversity theories to a new context and deepens our understanding of online collaboration.

Group Member

Sijia Wang, Graduate Student