“Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger?”

Boston, May, 2004 - Can absence make a team grow stronger? In 2002, NetAge teamed up with two business school professors to try to find out whether virtual teams really work. Harvard Business Review publishes the results this month as its Best Practice. We found that “far-flung” teams are more productive han their face-to-face counterparts if they keep three practices:

They exploit diversity

The team can't just be diverse; it has to make the most of it. Our teams credit their creative breakthroughs to challenging people from different disciplines, cultures, and the like to come up with something better together. They did.

They use pretty simple technology to simulate reality

By today’s standards, what they use is not very complicated. More than 80% of the teams use teleconference calls and shared websites. More than half used IM even when their companies prohibited it. Only a third used video conferencing. Some banned email.

They hold the team together

It takes a lot of communication. Some leaders spent as much as a third of their time just on the phone with team members.

The article is based on a sample of 54 teams in 26 companies who rarely if ever met as a whole face-to-face

NetAge’s CEO, Jessica Lipnack, and Chief Scientist, Jeff Stamps, co-authored the article, with two business school professors—Ann Majchzrak at University of Southern California, and Arvind Malhotra at University of North Carolina