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Team problem solving and motivation under disorganization – an agent-based modeling approach

Dinuka Herath (Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)
Joyce Costello (Media School, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK)
Fabian Homberg (Department of HRM and OB, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK)

Team Performance Management

ISSN: 1352-7592

Article publication date: 14 March 2017




This paper aims at simulating on how “disorganization” affects team problem solving. The prime objective is to determine how team problem solving varies between an organized and disorganized environment also considering motivational aspects.


Using agent-based modeling, the authors use a real-world data set from 226 volunteers at five different types of non-profit organizations in Southwest England to define some attributes of the agents. The authors introduce the concepts of natural, structural and functional disorganization while operationalizing natural and functional disorganization.


The simulations show that “disorganization” is more conducive for problem solving efficiency than “organization” given enough flexibility (range) to search and acquire resources. The findings further demonstrate that teams with resources above their hierarchical level (access to better quality resources) tend to perform better than teams that have only limited access to resources.


The nuanced categories of “(dis-)organization” allow us to compare between various structural limitations, thus generating insights for improving the way managers structure teams for better problem solving.



Herath, D., Costello, J. and Homberg, F. (2017), "Team problem solving and motivation under disorganization – an agent-based modeling approach", Team Performance Management, Vol. 23 No. 1/2, pp. 46-65.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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