An Agent Simulation Study on Conflict, Community Climate and Innovation in Open Source Communities

An Agent Simulation Study on Conflict, Community Climate and Innovation in Open Source Communities

Levent Yilmaz (Auburn University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/jossp.2009100101
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More than ever the complexity of innovation requires group efforts, as teams of scientists and engineers from diverse backgrounds work together to solve problems. One of the significant problems in understanding emergence of innovation involves how virtual innovation organizations and communities govern and coordinate to maximize innovation output. An agent simulation study is conducted to examine the impact of culture and conflict management styles on collective creativity in open source innovation systems. Findings suggest that decentralized coordination schemes such as emergent selection such as found in utility communities and moderate degrees of assertiveness and cooperation for conflict management result in higher incidence of innovation.
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Creativity is the production of novel and useful ideas by an individual or group of individuals working together (Amabile, 1988). Innovation is an extension of creativity, as it is the successful implementation, adoption, and transfer of creative ideas, products, processes, or services (West & Farr, 1990). From a process perspective, creativity involves social, cognitive, and technical processes situated in individual, team, and organization contexts that repeatedly produce innovative products. This work answers the call for new methods of studying organizational creativity and innovation (Anderson et al., 2004) in community forms of organizations.

To this end, we focus on contributing to the socio-psychological understanding of innovation in open and virtual innovation communities. The mode of production in such communities involves autonomous contributions, while maintaining the necessary adjustments to common subject matter of work. For instance, Open Source Software (OSS) communities and scientific communities consist of members that not only work on a common product, but they are also aware of this collective work and adjust their actions to new information. Such community forms, in which organizational creativity and innovation rates are high, appear to be increasingly important to solving problems and sharing knowledge (van Maanen & Barley, 1984; Brown & Duguid, 1991, 2000, 2001; Hargadon & Bechky, 2006), and they are well suited for an information economy that relies upon the production and diffusion of knowledge.

We choose OSS communities as a testbed to study, develop, and explore models of innovation in virtual innovation communities. OSS communities may experience reduced production loss through production blocking (Diehl & Stroebe, 1991; Gallupe et al., 1991) because all team members can contribute ideas simultaneously. They reduce problems with social influence such as evaluation apprehension and anonymity (Dennis & Valacich, 1993; DeRosa et al., 2007). Also, OSS communities, which often communicate through electronic media, reduce cognitive failures (Nijstad et al., 2006) and enhance the synergistic effects of group brainstorming because access to the data is unrestricted by individual recall (Dennis & Valacich, 1993). Traditional organizational archetypes are hierarchical organizations, in which employees have little or no control over their jobs (Lawler, 1992). In contrast, OSS communities accentuate emergent selection because individuals are given some control, which stimulates and motivates them (Von Hippel, 2005), so that individuals are adaptive as opposed to optimizing. Contributions compete for adoption and unanticipated innovations emerge as a result of interactions between the culture, organization, and the technology. Given these observations, the objective of this study involves using a computational model:

  • To explore and improve our understanding of the structural and behavioral assumptions for the emergence and sustainment of creativity in OSS communities under alternative community cultures and conflict management styles.

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