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The blind leading the blind: Impromptu leaderships influenced by awareness in collaborative search

Chirag Shah (Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 21 March 2016




Online collaboration – a required method for many problem-solving situations in today’s work environments – has many aspects that are not clearly understood or explored. One of them is how work styles, specifically leadership styles, within a seemingly homogeneous teams with no prior role assignments affects the process and outcomes of collaboration. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the aspect of online collaboration to learn how different leadership styles that may emerge impact collaborative work.


The work described here employs a user study involving 84 participants in 42 pairs, working in one of the three conditions across two sessions. The three conditions are defined based on the amount and the kind of awareness provided to the team members: no awareness of personal or team progress (C1), awareness of personal progress (C2), and awareness of both personal and team progress (C3). The log and chat data from the sessions where these teams work in collecting relevant information for two different topics are collected and analysed.


Quantitative and qualitative analyses indicate the difference among the three conditions with respect to these two leadership styles. Specifically, it is found that those with the team awareness provided to them (C3) exhibited the least amounts of leadership, keeping the team relatively symmetric. The democratic nature of such teams also fostered more diverse searching behaviour and less need for communication.


The work reported here is a first attempt to shed light on two kinds of connections: individual and team awareness to leadership style, and leadership style to diversity of information exploration.



The author is thankful to Doulat Lakhani and Lori Shah for their contributions to coding the data used for this work.


Shah, C. (2016), "The blind leading the blind: Impromptu leaderships influenced by awareness in collaborative search", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 68 No. 2, pp. 212-226.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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