C. Gurau

Groupe Sup de Co Montpellier Business School (FRANCE)
Business simulations expose students to immediate and spontaneous decision-making situations in a controlled environment, enhancing the teaching and learning of business management concepts and methodologies (Clarke, 2009; Clark et al., 2003). Although the effectiveness of business simulations as a pedagogical tool has been already explored (Doyle and Brown, 2000), the factors influencing the success of students is still a topic of debate (Anderson and Lawton, 2009. Teach, 1992).

Despite the necessity of understanding the determinants of pedagogical success in business simulations, very few studies attempted to explore this topic (Belbin, 1981; Gurau, 2010; Rich, 1998).Addressing this knowledge gap, this study explores the influence of students teams’ composition on the performance achieved during Markops marketing management simulation exercise.

Based on the research framework developed by previous studies (Bradley and Hebert, 1997; Poling et al., 2006), this paper investigates the link between the composition and performance of 12 MBA student teams (composed from 4 or 5 students). To achieve this research aim following objectives have been formulated:
1. To measure the psychological profile of team members (extroversion, conscientiousness,
agreeableness, openness to experience and emotional stability).
2. To identify and analyse the leadership structure of the students’ teams (mono or bipolar).
3. To investigate the effect of members’ personality traits and leadership structure on team processes (communication, cohesion).
4. To analyse the impact of members’ personality traits and leadership structure on team performance.

The results indicate that teams characterised by a high heterogeneity of members’ personality traits have more difficulty to communicate and experience a lower level of cohesion than teams with lower heterogeneity levels. However, the situation is more complex when taking also into account the leadership structure of students’ teams. In monopolar leadership teams, communication and cohesion have better levels than in bipolar leadership teams. On the other hand, the leadership structure of the investigated teams represents an essential element for explaining team performance. Monopolar leadership teams perform better than the bipolar ones, even when team members present a high heterogeneity of personality traits.

These findings outline the importance of a clear leadership structure for team performance during the business simulation exercise. In monopolar leadership teams, team heterogeneity is used constructively by the team leader, increasing the diversity and the creativity of the proposed solutions, and consequently enhancing the educational effects of this pedagogical exercise. This observation confirms the view expressed by Kolb and Kolb (2005) that learning results from differences in content, point of views and learning styles, experienced by students within an open environment, but outlines also the need of internal team leadership and coordination. On the other hand, in bipolar leadership teams, the heterogeneity of personality traits increases the divergence of opinions and personal positions, reducing the collective motivation and performance of that group.