Performance Management

How the Sharing of Information Affects Team Performance

Organizations increasingly utilize teams as a basis for structuring work and decision-making. A central reason for utilizing a multi-person format for making decisions is for reaching decisions of higher quality than possible by a single individual. A key ingredient to successful team-based decision-making is the sharing of information among members. How, and what, information is shared between members greatly impacts the team’s decision-making ability. Information shared among members of a team can be classified on two dimensions:  uniqueness and openness.

Information uniqueness

The extent to which team members make use of each other’s distinct sets of knowledge can greatly benefit the team. The more unique the information and knowledge possessed by each team member, the greater amount of information shared among the team, resulting in greater team decision-making performance.

Open sharing of information

The more open members are in sharing information with each other, the greater the opportunity for stronger trust and cohesion between members, leading to increased opportunities for members to interact. The more interaction between members, the more familiar they become with each other, thus more open information sharing.

Effectively utilizing uniqueness and openness

Some important elements for effective team-based decision-making include:
  • Create a structure for team discussion.
Initiating a structure for team discussion leads to more unique information sharing, as keeping the discussion focused ensures each individual will be able to share their unique information.
  • Compose teams appropriately.
Member diversity is important for increasing the potential for sharing unique information. However, member similarity – not diversity – leads to open sharing of information. Teams must be composed with an appropriate balance of similar (for open sharing) and dissimilar (for information uniqueness) individuals.
  • Create a cooperative environment
The more team members cooperate with each other, the more cohesive a group they become, leading to easier sharing of information with one another. In order for organizations to make the most of team-based formats, they need to ensure members have access to as much relevant information as possible. By focusing on how teams are composed and operate, the greatest amount of unique information is shared openly, leading to more effective decisions.

Kathleen Melcher


This was a summary of the research and practice implications from: Mesmer-Magnus, J.R., & DeChurch, L.A. (2009). Information Sharing and Team Performance: A Meta-analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(2), 535-546.