Working Paper | HBS Working Paper Series | 2012

Expertise Dissensus: A Multi-level Model of Teams' Differing Perceptions about Member Expertise

by Heidi K. Gardner and Lisa Kwan

Abstract

Why are some teams more effective than others at using their members' expertise to achieve short-term performance and longer term developmental benefits? We propose that a critical factor is expertise dissensus-members' differing perceptions of each other's level of expertise. We argue that performance hinges on how team members perceive all others' expertise-not just how they view the most expert team member-and that even latent disagreement about how much each person can contribute will undermine individuals' development and teams' capacity building. We develop and test a multi-level model of expertise dissensus, finding that it hampers team coordination, increases task and relationship conflict, and lowers all dimensions of team effectiveness: team performance, team viability, and individual member development.

Keywords: Groups and Teams; Failure; Experience and Expertise; Research; Performance Effectiveness; Knowledge Use and Leverage; Perception; Personal Development and Career;

Citation:

Gardner, Heidi K., and Lisa Kwan. "Expertise Dissensus: A Multi-level Model of Teams' Differing Perceptions about Member Expertise ." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 12-070, February 2012. (Revised March 2012.)