CAREER: Generating Generativity

Modeling and Fostering Creative Collaborations in Enterprise Social Media Using a Cyberinfrastructure for Smart Innovation (CSI)


Peer-Reviewed Conference and Journal Articles:

Van Osch, W., Bulgurcu, B., and Majchrzak, A. “Closed Versus Open: Conditions for Generativity” (Under review at MIS Quarterly)

Abstract: Much of the literature on Enterprise Social Media (ESM) assumes an openness bias; that is, maximizing the ability to observe, join, and or/participate in the activities of other individuals or groups leads to the discovery of novel resources and perspectives which form the foundation for subsequent knowledge sharing and innovation. Embedded in this assumption is the idea that closed groups—because of their unobservability—will underperform vis-à-vis open groups. This view, however, overlooks some of the management literature arguing the opposite may also be true; that is, transparency may harm and closedness may enhance knowledge sharing and innovation. To address this equivocality, we focus on the ability of open versus closed groups to engage in generative conversations—interactions among group members that involve idea generation and form the root cause of innovation. We build on and extend the theoretical lens of generative conversations by using content data from a naturally occurring quasi-experiment of over 10,000 written interactions of 301 open and 355 closed groups in a large multinational enterprise. We find strong empirical support that closed groups do not underperform in terms of engaging in generative conversations. We also show that groups which engage in high volume of generative conversations structure their social interactions in ways that take advantage of their connectedness within or outside of their group depending on their openness or closedness. In particular, for closed groups, a high volume of generative conversations is more likely to occur in groups with members who are directly connected to other group members in one-on-one ties (i.e., “bonding”) as if these conversations emerge from a greater respect and knowledge of each other. Whereas for open groups, a high volume of generative conversations is surprisingly not affected by these bonding ties, but rather purely by whether the members form ties to individuals outside of their group (“bridging”) in the ESM. This suggests that openness or closedness of a group does not solely determine whether or not groups engage in generative conversations, but it does appear to establish two different preconditions, bridging or bonding respectively, that are required for these groups to be engaged in such conversations.

Van Osch, W., Bulgurcu, B., and Majchrzak, A. “Group Visibility and Social Capital Formation in Enterprise Social Media” (Under review at European Conference on Information Systems)

Abstract: ESM have created new opportunities for groups of individuals to create networks of connections, including with previously unknown others inside the same organization. The formation of social capital in the context of ESM is inherently affected by the visibility affordance of these tools, re-sulting in either visible or invisible groups. As such, ESM offered a unique opportunity to assess the effects of visibility on group processes, specifically in the context of social capital formation. Given that past research has had a strong positivity bias with respect to the role of visibility on organizational processes, we developed and validated a framework that incorporated both visibil-ity and invisibility and suggested that social capital formation can emerge within both visible and invisible groups, yet, that the exact form of social capital—i.e., bonding or bridging—are shaped by the visibility settings of the group and the level of discussions ongoing in the group. Therefore, as researchers of ESM technologies, we must be cautious in generalizing about the unequivocal effects of visibility and instead must be sensitive to the idiosyncrasies of visible versus invisible groups and their emergent network structures. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

Van Osch, W., Bulgurcu, B., and Majchrzak, A. “Living in a Fish Bowl or Not?  The Dual Effects of Transparency and Privacy on Creative Dialogues” (Under review at Academy of Management Journal)

Abstract: Transparency—the observability of activities, routines, behaviors, output, and performance—has become the panacea of modern management. Yet, there is a conundrum in the existing literature with some studies suggesting that group transparency may increase the amount of creative dialogues in groups, while others suggest that group privacy—the ability to control and limit access to the self or one’s group—may improve creative dialogues. We study these two explanations to find out how group transparency and privacy shape the nature and amount of creative dialogues in groups. By adopting a quasi-experimental design including 301 open and 355 closed groups and a total of over 10,000 written interactions produced by these groups over a five-year period in a large multinational product design firm, we bring disparate results under a single theoretical roof and show that both transparency and privacy may increase the proliferation of creative dialogues in groups. Creative dialogues come in different forms and may involve either expansion or reframing. Transparency increases the amount of expansion-focused creative dialogues by expanding the range and diversity of relations that a group engages in; conversely, privacy increases the amount of reframing-focused creative dialogues by reinforcing the cohesion and equality of relations within a group. Solving the conundrum regarding group transparency and privacy not only represents a significant theoretical advancement, but also offers a critical reflection onto practical attempts pertaining to the physical design and digital restructuring of organizations with the aim of increasing transparency.