Can you Cooperate? Assessing Virtual Cooperation

Wednesday, 30. May 2018

By Alec Serlie, GITP BV, Netherlands

Is there any job-role that does not involve working together with other people? The answer is probably “No!”. In modern society, working together and cooperating has become an integral part of our day-to-day life. Even more challenging is the fact that cooperation is shifting from its traditional face-to-face form to virtual cooperation, whereby Skype conference calls, online checklists and working in different time zones has found its way into projects and teams. This new type of cooperation requires an adaptive skillset. As technology becomes advances, the importance of the human factor might appear to move to the background. The opposite, however, seems to be true. The criteria for effective cooperation, trust and knowledge sharing (Alsharo, Gregg, & Ramirez, 2017), are equally important in virtual cooperation. It just requires other skills and more effort when working together at arm’s length. Cooperation in general and collaboration in particular is “… one of the most important factors for team success… When people work together, teams will work faster, have higher motivation, will built work relationships faster which all are important factors for team performance” (Duarte & Snyder, 2001).

On the competency level, cooperation has to do with two constructs; Working with people and Adhering to Principles and Values (Bartram, 2005). Specific competencies like Collaboration, Coaching and Empathy capture the former construct, while Integrity and Loyalty the latter. The first construct is quite obvious. In order to cooperate with others, reaching out to them, helping others and actively contributing to a common aim are imminent. The second construct has to do with the trust needed in a team. In a virtual environment, where traditional control mechanisms are minimal at best, trust becomes a vital component for team effectiveness (e.g. Pangril & Chan, 2014). Reliability, sticking to what is agreed upon and loyalty towards team members are fundamental.

In personality terms, the personality dimensions Extraversion and Altruism are antecedents of effective cooperation (Bell, 2007), indicating that extraverted people who have a focus on others have a predisposition for effective cooperation.

Stating that cooperation is “one of the most important factors for team success” is one thing, but measuring the proficiency level and helping people develop their cooperation skills is another.

Within the DEVELOP consortium we have developed a serious game that aims to do exactly that – measure cooperation behaviour and help get people on the right track as they develop the required competencies.

The serious game consists of two elements: the intention to cooperate, which is measured with a valid questionnaire among other things, focussing on the determinants of cooperation; Extraversion and Altruism and the behavioural aspects of cooperation, which are measured with a first-person-narrative simulation. It is this combination of intention and behaviour that can trigger development (see Figure 1). If the intention is low and the behaviour is low, a significant amount of effort will have to be made to get the learner to a higher proficiency level of cooperation. If on the other hand intention and behaviour are both high, little extra effort will have to be made. The combination of high intention and low behaviour should result in an effort focussed on practicing and mastering cooperation, whereas low intention and high behaviour should focus more on making the person more aware of their role in cooperation.

Development potential matrix
Figure 1. Development potential matrix


The game itself revolves around a scenario in which the player has to work together with a distant and global team to produce a vaccine for a perilous flu virus. During a variety of scenes, the player will have to choose between different reactions to events occurring and the story develops adaptively as the player makes choices. Each choice triggers a new event, making the narrative realistic and genuine. The scenes are based on factors that are important for cooperation: Trust, Knowledge Sharing, Collaboration, Coaching, Empathy and Integrity. As the story progresses, the pressure will increase and the player has to cope with the quirks of the various team members and external obstructions.The cooperation game is an integral part of DEVELOP’s Personalised Learning Environment, together with other competency measurements and tailored Learning Activities.

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Alsharo, M., Gregg, D., & Ramirez, R. (2017). Virtual team effectiveness: The role of knowledge sharing and trust. Information & Management, 54(4), 479-490.

Bartram, D. (2005). The Great Eight competencies: A criterion-centric approach to validation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90, 1185-1203.

Bell, S. T. (2007). Deep-level composition variables as predictors of team performance: a meta-analysis. Journal of applied psychology, 92(3), 595.

Duarte, D. L., & Snyder, N. T. (2001). Mastering Virtual Teams: Strategies. Tools and Techniques That Succeed.

Pangil, P., & Chan, J.M. (2014). The mediating effect of knowledge sharing on the relationship between trust and virtual team effectiveness. Journal of Knowledge Management, 18, 92-106,