Work features to support stigmergic coordination in distributed teams

Publication Type:



Academy of Management Annual Meeting (2017)


Coordination, Stigmergy


When work products are shared via a computer system, members of distributed teams can see the work products produced by remote colleagues as easily as those from local colleagues. Drawing on coordination theory and work in computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), we theorize that these work products can provide information to support team coordination, that is, that work can be coordinated through the outcome of the work itself, a mode of coordination analogous to the biological process of stigmergy. Based on studies of documents and work, we postulate three features of work products that enable them to support team coordination, namely having a clear genre, being visible and mobile, and being combinable. These claims are illustrated with examples drawn from free/libre open source software development teams. We conclude by discussing how the proposed theory might be empirically tested.

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