Learning from Many: Partner Exposure and Team Familiarity in Fluid Teams

Zeynep Akşin, Koç University


In services where teams come together for short collaborations, managers are often advised to strive for high team familiarity so as to improve coordination and, consequently, performance. However, inducing high team familiarity, by keeping team membership intact, can limit workers' opportunities to acquire useful knowledge and alternative practices from exposure to a broader set of partners. We introduce an empirical measure for prior partner exposure and estimate its impact (along with that of team familiarity) on operational performance using data from the London Ambulance Service. Our analysis focuses on ambulance transports involving new paramedic recruits, where exogenous changes in team membership enable clean identification of the performance effect. Specifically, we investigate the impact of prior partner exposure on time spent during patient pick-up at the scene and patient handover at the hospital. We find that the effect varies with the process characteristics. For the patient pick-up process, which is less standardized, greater partner exposure directly improves performance. For the more standardized patient handover process, this beneficial effect is triggered beyond a threshold of sufficient individual experience. In addition, we find that the beneficial performance impact of prior partner exposure is amplified during periods of high workload, for both processes. Finally, a counterfactual analysis based on our estimates shows that a team formation strategy emphasizing partner exposure outperforms one that emphasizes team familiarity by about 9.2% in our empirical context.

Short Bio

Zeynep Akşin is a Professor of Operations Management at Koç University. She holds Ph.D. and MS degrees from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, and a BS in Industrial Engineering from Middle East Technical University. Her work focuses on service operations management with applications in call centers and healthcare. She has received several awards and recognitions including a TÜBA encouragement award in social sciences, an IBM faculty award, and recognition as a finalist in the MSOM Service SIG prize. She serves as an associate editor for IISE Transactions, Management Science, Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, and Service Science.


Friday, April 16, 2021, 4.00 pm - Zoom Meeting


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