Fostering trust in virtual project teams: Towards a design framework grounded in a TrustWorthiness ANtecedents (TWAN) schema

Ellen Rusman, Jan Van Bruggen, Peter Sloep, Rob Koper

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    Several collaboration problems in virtual project teams that work in knowledge-intensive contexts can be attributed to a hampered process of interpersonal trust formation. Solutions to trust formation problems need to be based on an understanding of how interpersonal trust forms in face-to-face project teams as well as on insight into how this process differs in virtual teams. Synthesizing literature from various disciplines, we propose a model for the formation of interpersonal trust between project team members. Taking this model as a starting point, we analyse how virtual settings may alter or even obstruct the process of trust formation. One method to improve the formation of interpersonal trust in virtual settings is to facilitate the assessment of trustworthiness. This can be done by making information available about individual virtual project team members. Previous research in virtual project teams focussed principally on the medium by which information is spread, for example, by phone, mail, or videoconferencing. Most researchers failed to take the specific content of the information into account, although there is general agreement that personal, non-task-related information is important to foster trust. For this, we propose to use the antecedents of trustworthiness, which until now have mainly been used as a framework to measure trust, as a design framework instead. This framework of antecedents can also be used to determine which type of information is relevant to assess each other’s trustworthiness. We review existing literature on the antecedents of trustworthiness and extend the well-accepted antecedents of ‘ability’, ‘benevolence’ and ‘integrity’ with several other antecedents, such as ‘communality’ and ‘accountability’. Together, these form the TrustWorthiness ANtecedents (TWAN) schema. We describe how these antecedents can be used to determine which information is relevant for team members assessing others’ trustworthiness. In future research we will first verify this extended cognitive schema of trustworthiness (TWAN) empirically and then apply it to the design of artefacts or guidelines, such as a personal identity profile to support the assessment of trustworthiness in virtual project teams.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)834-850
    Number of pages16
    JournalInternational Journal of Human-Computer Studies
    Issue number11
    Early online date21 Jul 2010
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


    • trust
    • trustworthiness
    • artefact design
    • virtual team
    • collaboration
    • impression formation


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