Research Summary

Bringing Worlds Together: Cultural Brokerage in Multicultural Teams (Dissertation)



Multicultural teams are becoming increasingly prevlaent and crucial for organizational success, yet they face many challenges that stem from their cultural differences. How can multicultural teams mitigate the risks of working across cultures and harness the creative benefits of cultural diversity? 

In my dissertation, I take a unique approach to answering this question by introducing the concept of "cultural brokerage", the act of facilitating cross-cultural interactions. 

In an inductive interview study, I find that culturally experienced members of multicultural teams actively engage in cultural brokerage, without formal appointment. 
Further, I find that both cultural insiders (those with deep knowledge of the specific cultures involved) and cultural outsiders (those with little knowledge of the specific cultures involved) engage in cultural brokerage, but that they enact this role in different ways.

In an online experiment of global teams, I examine the antecedents and outcomes of cultural brokerage in a creative team task. I find that cultural insiders are more likely to engage in compensating, managing cultural differences on behalf of other members, while cultural outsiders are more likely to broker by empowering, enabling other members to understand and manage cultural differences. I find that both types of cultural brokerage enhance team creativity under different conditions.

Keywords: cultural brokerage; multicultural teams; cross-cultural collaboration; creativity;