Bringing Worlds Together: Cultural Brokerage in Multicultural Teams



This paper develops and tests a model of multicultural team effectiveness across two studies, using qualitative and quantitative methods. Based on an interview study and existing literature, I introduce the concept of cultural brokerage --the act of facilitating cross-cultural collaboration --and develop a theoretical model of cultural brokerage. I then test the model in an online experiment with 83 multicultural teams. As predicted, cultural brokerage was found to enhance the creative performance of both the multicultural team and the individual broker. Furthermore, among those with extensive multicultural experience, cultural outsiders (those with little knowledge of the cultures of other team members) were just as effective as cultural insiders (those with deep knowledge of the cultures of the other team members) at enhancing team performance, although they accomplished this by engaging in different types of brokerage. Cultural insiders were more likely to broker by compensating, resolving cultural issues on behalf of the team, whereas cultural outsiderswere more likely to broker by empowering, enabling other members to resolve cultural issues. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.