Today, there is an increasing dependency on human association and interaction. It is in this light that organizations and enterprises achieve tasks through team efforts rather than individual efforts. For instance, the emergence of the social network conglomerate – Facebook – might have been impossible without the merger of Mark Zuckerberg's programming skills with Eduardo Saverin's financial expertise and investment.
In this light, the importance of team efforts as an element of success has become prominent in recent times. However, an essential aspect of this theory is that team performance is contingent on the team composition. Precisely, the overall combination of characteristics among the members of a team may impact the team's performance.
Noteworthy, a team may either be homogenous or heterogeneous as to its composition. For instance, in the illustration above, Facebook emerged via a heterogeneous composition – programmer and investor. Consequently, the focus of research into team composition is to ask the question – would Facebook still have emerged through the efforts of two programmers rather than a financial mix.
In view of this, this essay examines homogeneous vs. heterogeneous teams in a bid to identify the relationship between team composition and team performance.
Homogenous teams refer to a form of team composition wherein the team members are similar in attributes and characteristics. In such instances, their skill, experience, and ability are all within the same scope. As such, a team is considered as homogeneous when its mix is similar in perspective, life experiences, and learning abilities. (Jones, 2017)
Further, scholars consider this team composition advantageous as there is a lesser possibility for exclusion thanks to similarities in character. Also, communication – both verbal and nonverbal cues – is usually more effective. Similarly, these similarities can prevent unnecessary misunderstandings and, in turn, speed up the work process. (Jones, 2017)
What are Heterogeneous Teams?
Heterogeneous teams involve a team composition wherein the members of the team possess distinct characteristics and features. In such an instance, each member possesses a skillset, experience, and ability that differs from that of other team members. (Jones, 2017)
In the same vein, a team is regarded as heterogeneous when it includes a mixture of genders, cultures, ages, and races, providing a wide range of opinions and experiences. Noteworthy, this mode of team composition is considered beneficial in that it creates a powerful dynamic within the team. It is also advantageous as it promotes innovation and creativity in the performance of tasks. (Jones, 2017)
There are differing thoughts on the degree of team performance, thanks to a team's composition. While some believe that homogeneous teams may perform more effectively and efficiently than heterogeneous teams, others think that heterogeneous teams are more likely to succeed. (Watson et al., 1993)
Regardless, the general argument by those who favor homogeneous teams is that they are more likely to perform efficiently, thanks to similarities in thought and experience. Hence, there is less likelihood of conflict and a more concerted attempt at actions that will inevitably lead to success. (Watson et al., 1993)
Similarly, proponents of homogeneous teams believe that with diversity comes the increased likelihood of conflict, and this increased likelihood result in dissonance. That is, there is an increase in varying perspectives, and in a bid to unify and reconcile these perspectives, teams lose valuable time. More, some believe that it might be impossible to reconcile these perspectives in some instances, and in such cases, there is inevitably a reduction in the team's efficiency.
As such, they favor a homogeneous setting because, in a homogeneous group, there is more satisfaction and positive reaction within the group. More so, thanks to the increased likelihood of cohesion between the team, there is increased coordination and in turn, increased capacity and ease of performance on collective tasks. (Martins et al., 2014)
On the other hand, some posit that heterogeneous teams are better poised to deliver effectively and efficiently. Noteworthy, scholars base their belief on the notion that heterogeneity of a team ensures diversity, which influences functionality. This is because team members can take up multiple roles and, as such, cover a more extensive range of activities.
Similarly, proponents of heterogeneity contend that heterogeneous groups experience increases team creativity and innovation. Heterogeneous teams also have a wide array of experience, which necessarily provides a wider variety of answers to any given issue. As such, they are poised to outperform homogeneous teams in that they can respond effectively and efficiently to a variety of issues. (Martins et al., 2004)
However, it is relevant to the stage that the relevance of a team composition may vary depending on the stage of a group task. For instance, a study carried out indicated that homogeneous teams performed better at the initial stage than heterogeneous groups. However, at the later stages of the task, heterogeneous teams performed more efficiently than homogeneous groups. (Watson et al., 1993) As such, the performance correlation of a form of team composition depends mainly on the stage of the team task.
In the same vein, this category – homogeneous and heterogeneous – are not irreconcilable as homogeneous teams can exude creativity with adequate incentive. Similarly, in heterogeneous teams, after continuous contact, the team can identify similarities within the group, which increases their cohesion over the years. Hence, a heterogeneous composition can display the characteristics of a homogeneous group in the same way as a homogeneous team can reflect the features of a heterogeneous group. (Louise, 2017)
In understanding the relationship between team composition and team performance, homogeneous vs. heterogeneous teams have been examined. However, it is of importance to note that the composition and framework of a team are not necessarily polar as between homogeneous and heterogeneous composition. In some cases, a team may be both homogeneous and heterogeneous. That is, heterogeneous for some function and homogeneous for others.
In the same vein, external factors should be considered in the determination of team composition as it affects the ability of a team to deliver on its task.
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