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Effective Virtual Teams through Communities of Practice

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Abstract

This paper examines the nature of virtual teams and their place in the networked economy. It presents a framework for categorising virtual teams and argues that fundamental changes have taken place in the business environment which force people and organisations to operate in 'two spaces' simultaneously: the physical space and the electronic space. It highlights some of the issues of trust and identity that exist in virtual teams and argues that, due to certain barriers, only a small proportion of these teams reach a satisfactory level of performance. Using the evidence from two recent sets of studies, it highlights some of the barriers to effective virtual team working and demonstrates the critical importance of trust and social bonding to the functioning of such teams. It reports on the use of a 'Community of Practice' in a virtual team and argues that this may provide one mechanism for overcoming some of the barriers. Finally, it argues that many of the problems stem from a lack of understanding of the new geography of the information economy and that, rather than accepting the notion that 'geography no longer matters', continued efforts must be made to understand the relationship between the physical world in which we live and the electronic world of virtual team working.

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