Compensatory Adaptation to Media Obstacles: An Experimental Study of Process Redesign Dyads

Compensatory Adaptation to Media Obstacles: An Experimental Study of Process Redesign Dyads

Ned Kock (Texas A&M International University, USA)
Copyright: © 2005 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/irmj.2005040103
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Abstract

Past research on electronic communication media suggests that those media pose obstacles to communication in collaborative tasks when compared with the face-to-face medium. Yet, past research also points at mixed findings in connection with the quality of the outcomes of collaborative tasks, generally suggesting that the use of electronic communication media has no negative effect on those outcomes. A new theoretical framework building on human evolution theory, called compensatory adaptation theory, has been proposed to explain these contradictory findings. This study provides a review and test of compensatory adaptation theory. It investigates the impact of the use of an electronic communication medium on 20 business process redesign dyads involving managers and professionals at a large defense contractor, with a focus on cognitive effort, communication ambiguity, message preparation, fluency, and task outcome quality. The study suggests that even though the use of electronic communication media seemed to increase cognitive effort and communication ambiguity, it had a neutral impact on task outcome quality. These results appear to be an outcome of compensatory adaptation, whereby the members of the dyads interacting through the electronic communication medium modified their behavior in order to compensate for the obstacles posed by the medium, which is suggested by a decrease in fluency and an increase in message preparation. The results generally support predictions based on compensatory adaptation theory.

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