[Excerpt] Tannenbaum, Mathieu, Salas, and Cohen (2011) identify three change themes – dynamic composition, technology/distance, and delayering/empowerment – that are affecting the nature of teams and discuss future research directions within each thematic area. They acknowledge that these emerging research needs may require new theories, research methods, and analyses and describe a few specific approaches that may hold promise, but focus their attention largely on describing the substantive issues and questions research should target going forward. We do not dispute that these themes are important – they are garnering substantial research attention (see Bell, 2007; Chen & Tesluk, in press; Kirkman, Gibson, & Kim, in press). However, they are among many issues that are in flux and important to consider in future research on teams. In this commentary, we adopt a broader perspective aimed at highlighting several conceptual, rather than substantive, themes that we believe can focus and leverage future research on the changing nature of teams. These conceptual themes are: (1) multilevel influences, (2) emergence, and (3) temporal dynamics. Sophisticated research questions and designs that encompass these conceptual issues will advance our understanding of the themes identified by Tannenbaum et al. (2011) as well as other emerging issues surrounding teams. In the following sections, we describe the three conceptual themes and then highlight the implications of these themes for future research on the changing nature of teams.
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