Collaboration Technology Use and Team Creativity in Virtual Teams - A Creative Synthesis Perspective

協作性技術影響虛擬團隊創造力的機制研究——基於創造性整合的視角

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date4 Sep 2019

Abstract

The global competition and rapid change in customer needs signify the importance of creativity and innovation. Thus, organizations are increasingly leverage virtual teams that can access to the best expertise around the world despite the spatial and temporal limits to undertake mission-critical tasks that needs creativity and innovation. Virtual teams rely heavily, if not exclusively, on collaboration technologies for communication and coordination, and thus how team members use collaboration technologies will influence team creativity processes and outcomes. However, the extant studies on team creativity have been primarily conducted in the context of traditional face-to-face teams. Thus, understanding how the use of collaboration technologies will influence team creativity development in virtual teams is of great importance for organizational practitioners and scholars.

In the present study, we conducted an interdisciplinary research by integrating knowledge from the field of Organizational Behaviors and Information Systems by building a research model explaining how the use of collaboration technologies, the creative synthesis processes and team knowledge disparity will influence team creativity. Specifically, we first categorized the features of collaboration technologies into three sets and analyzed the how the use of collaboration technology features would affect the three key creative synthesis processes, including collective attention, similarity building and enacting ideas. Then, we examined how the three synthesis processes, including collective attention, similarity building and enacting ideas would impact team creativity. At the same time, we tested the mediating role of the synthesis processes in the relationship between the use of collaboration technologies and team creativity. Finally, we researched team knowledge disparity would moderate the relationship between the synthesis processes and team creativity. In addition, how team knowledge disparity moderates the indirect effect from the use of collaboration technologies, the synthesis processes to team creativity. Based on data collected from 62 virtual teams, we found that 16 hypotheses out of the proposed 18 hypotheses are supported. The findings enriched the research on team creativity. The present study would provide practical guiding significance for organizations and teams to leverage resources such as information technologies and diversified knowledge to facilitate team creativity development processes and outcomes.

In this paper, the contributions are summarized as follows:

First, the present thesis builds and verifies a research model that explains how the use of collaboration technologies, the creative synthesis processes and team knowledge disparity will influence team creativity in virtual teams. The previous studies on team creativity have been theoretically analyzed and empirically tested in the context of traditional face-to-face teams, and neglected the critical factors that exist in virtual teams. The present study explores and answers the critical theoretical and practical question: when and how the use of collaboration technologies affects team creativity development processes and outcomes in virtual teams? The theoretical model on the relationship among the use of collaboration technology, the creative synthesis processes, team knowledge disparity and team creativity is largely supported by the data collected from a sample of 62 virtual teams that are performing software development work. By doing so, we answered the call from Gilson et al. (2015) for more research on team creativity in the virtual context. The findings from the present study has both theoretical and practical significance for the management of virtual teams towards the end of team creativity.

Second, we categorize the features of collaboration technologies into different sets based on the framework of knowledge-practice. In distributed teams, members rely on collaboration technologies for communication and task completion. Thus, the use of collaboration technologies will affect team creativity development processes. However, scholars have arrived at conflicting conclusions on the effect of collaboration technology on team processes and outcomes by considering the collaboration technology as one system. Based on the framework of knowledge-practice, we first re-categorized the features of collaboration technologies into three sets, including awareness features, knowledge association features and experimentation features; in addition, awareness features include task progress awareness features and member presence awareness features. The empirical results verified the categorization of the collaboration technologies. The categorization framework proposed in the present study refines the role of collaborative technology at the feature level, and provides new perspective for further research on the impact of collaborative technology on team processes and outputs.

Third, we reveal that the use of different features of the collaboration technologies affects different creative synthesis processes, including collective attention, similarity building and enacting ideas, which then affect team creativity. Although previous research has examined several team process predictors (e.g., knowledge sharing and knowledge elaboration) for team creativity, we are still not clear about the nature of the collective processes for creativity by examining these general team processes. The empirical results show that the use of task progress awareness features and member presence features positively influences collective attention which subsequently positively affects team creativity; the use of knowledge association features is positively related to similarity building that positively impacts team creativity; and the use of experimentation features positively relates to enacting ideas that exerts a positive effect on team creativity. The three processes examined in this thesis afford a more nuanced understating of collective creativity development. Beyond general team processes of information sharing and elaboration, we are able to understand from the micro level what is happening when the collective is in the process of generating creative ideas, which provides new mediators for team creativity research. In addition, we also extended the antecedents of team creative synthesis processes.

Finally, we reveal that team knowledge disparity moderates the relationship between synthesis processes and team creativity, and also moderates the indirect effect of the creative synthesis processes in the relationship between the use of collaboration technologies and team creativity. Team diversity is an extensively studied topic in recent years and it is also an important predictor for team creativity. Diversity takes various forms, including variety, separation and disparity, and different types of diversity is conceptualized in quite distinct ways. Among these three types of diversity, disparity has drawn the narrowest attention in the literature although it was argued to have negative consequences. By integrating research on knowledge disparity and the virtual context, our empirical results show that knowledge disparity has a positive moderating effect on the relationship between synthesis processes and team creativity, and knowledge disparity strengthens the indirect effect of the creative synthesis processes in the relationship between the use of collaboration technologies and team creativity. By doing so, we expand the research on team diversity and also enriched the situational conditions for the relationship between creative synthesis processes and team creativity. The findings, on one hand, complement the research on team diversity by examining the role of knowledge disparity, and on the other hand, enrich the situational conditions for the relationship between creative synthesis processes and team creativity.

    Research areas

  • Collaboration technology, Virtual teams, Team creativity, Creative synthesis processes, Team knowledge disparity