Individual Difference Theory and Research: Application to Multinational Coalition Teamwork Megan M. Thompson
Defence Research and Development Canada Toronto, Canada Megan.Thompson@drdc-rddc.gc.ca
A guiding principle of the work of this panel on multinational coalitions is an acknowledgement of the multitude of factors that can affect teamwork under such challenging conditions. Individual differences in cognitive processing is one such factor that the panel has cited as relevant to effective operations of teams in general, and multinational teams, more specifically. The current talk will provide an overview of individual difference factors that could be investigated to facilitate adaptability in teamwork within multinational coalitions. I begin by briefly discussing individual differences in general and then specify several constructs that may play a role in teamwork. The talk will also review the extant experimental literature. The talk will conclude with my suggestions for future research concerning individual differences that might be relevant to adaptability in coalition teamwork.
“Politically fragile in nature, [coalitions] develop out of necessity, sometimes uniting nations without a history of harmonious relations.” (1. Scales, 1998, p.4). Although often formed in response to some significant instigating event (2. Bechtold, 1995), coalitions have the most limited commonality and life spans of all international alliances. They enable the undertaking of missions that would overwhelm the resources of a single nation (3. Silkett, 1993) and, perhaps even more importantly, establish the international legitimacy of a mission (4. Forster, 2000). However, they often have “broad and often unclear mandates and are the result of hasty prior coordination …” (4. Forster, 2000, p. 56). Indeed, in many ways, coalitions might be seen as the ultimate adhoc team: the challenges to their effective development and maintenance are greater, the risks that fostered their creations are often more immediate and urgent, and the costs of failure graver (physical devastation, loss of life and in terms of shaping history) than those incurred in virtually any other teamwork forum. Given their vital importance, it is critical to identify and leverage the factors that might affect the performance and effectiveness of coalition teamwork. There are a multitude of factors that can conspire to test the coordination, cohesion, and ultimately the effectiveness of a coalition. Significant differences can arise due to incompatibility of political ideology, strategic goals, operational processes, tactical implementation, and a lack of interoperability of equipment 4. Forster, 2000; 1. Scales, 1998; 3. Silkett, 1993). As important as these differences are, other factors at play can facilitate or interfere with effective teamwork at the purely human level. Indeed, this symposium is devoted to an in-depth discussion of the human face of coalition teamwork. This paper will address perhaps the most basic level of these human factors, addressing some of the individual differences on cognitive, emotional, and social levels that past research has shown affect team work and processes in general. More colloquially, this paper begins to answer the question: “What aspects of a person’s thinking, feeling and interacting should we study, how should we measure these aspects, who should we study, and what are some of the additional factors that we should keep in mind when thinking about how the personalities of individual members might affect team performance in general and multinational coalitions more specifically?”. I begin be defining some key concepts and discussing the selection of the specific individual difference measures reviewed below. RTO-MP-HFM-142 KN2 - 1
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