Computational approaches for engineering effective teams
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The performance of a team depends not only on the abilities of its individual members, but also on how these members interact with each other. Inspired by this premise and motivated by a large number of applications in educational, industrial and management settings, this thesis studies a family of problems, known as team-formation problems, that aim to engineer teams that are effective and successful. The major challenge in this family of problems is dealing with the complexity of the human team participants. Specifically, each individual has his own objectives, demands, and constraints that might be in contrast with the desired team objective. Furthermore, different collaboration models lead to different instances of team-formation problems. In this thesis, we introduce several such models and describe techniques and efficient algorithms for various instantiations of the team-formation problem. This thesis consists of two main parts. In the first part, we examine three distinct team-formation problems that are of significant interest in (i) educational settings, (ii) industrial organizations, and (iii) management settings respectively. What constitutes an effective team in each of the aforementioned settings is totally dependent on the objective of the team. For instance, the performance of a team (or a study group) in an educational setting can be measured as the amount of learning and collaboration that takes place inside the team. In industrial organizations, desirable teams are those that are cost-effective and highly profitable. Finally in management settings, an interesting body of research uncovers that teams with faultlines are prone to performance decrements. Thus, the challenge is to form teams that are free of faultlines, that is, to form teams that are robust and less likely to break due to disagreements. The first part of the thesis discusses approaches for formalizing these problems and presents efficient computational methods for solving them. In the second part of the thesis, we consider the problem of improving the functioning of existing teams. More precisely, we show how we can use models from social theory to capture the dynamics of the interactions between the team members. We further discuss how teams can be modified so that the interaction dynamics lead to desirable outcomes such as higher levels of agreement or lesser tension and conflict among the team members.