Mindfully Experimenting with IT: Cases on Corporate Social Media Introduction

Mindfully Experimenting with IT: Cases on Corporate Social Media Introduction

Robin S. Poston (Fogelman College of Business and Economics, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA) and William J. Kettinger (Fogelman College of Business and Economics, University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/jdm.2014040102
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Abstract

In many companies the process of new Information Technology (IT) identification and assessment lacks the rigor associated with experimentation. The realities of maintaining daily operations and the expense and expertise involved distract firms from conducting experiments. The authors explore cases of how companies introduce a new IT for the business use of digital social media. Because social media technologies are new, interest in its use is broad and diffused leading organizations to be unsure about how best to implement social media, prompting organizations to follow a mindful process of experimenting with these technologies. The cases illustrate that the extent of mindfulness influences how new technology implementations are introduced, supporting wider boundaries in assessments, richer interpretations of the IT's usefulness, multi-level foci concerning benefits and costs, persistence to continue exploration, and a greater use of fact-based decision-making. The authors observe that following a mindful introduction process reaps some of the benefits of experimentation, such as greater stakeholder satisfaction and organization-wide learning and understanding of the technology's potential.
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Introduction

Implementing new information technology (IT) can be especially problematic given IT’s pervasiveness, fast pace of change, and potential for harm (e.g., increased electronic security breaches and greater visibility). To avoid failures, some companies prefer to make implementation decisions based on experimentation following a rigorous, scientific approach of objectivity and reproducibility. However, daily operations take priority (Thomke, 2003) and many companies identify and assess new technologies through non-rigorous means—discovering the potential uses of IT at various levels of stakeholder participation throughout the organization. We call this process ‘IT introduction’.

Through experimentation, companies explore the potential benefits and risks of IT by designing and evaluating organized experimental events (i.e., trials) (Anderson & Simester, 2011). Those running experiments must establish investigational boundaries based on a set of expectations given stakeholder inputs (Reeves & Deimler, 2011), structure trials such that lessons learned from current results provide input for future trials, and deal with outcomes that range from highly successful to complete failures (Thomke, 2001). Experimenters must also consider how to design trials and evaluate results given local and/or corporate oversight, time frames and review gates, and an environment that uses fact-based or hierarchically-based controls (Anderson & Simester, 2011). While systematic, the experimentation process can be onerous in expense and expertise and many companies instead follow a less rigorous introduction process to identify new IT and design and evaluate trials.

We draw from mindfulness theory to investigate how some organizations are able to manage the introduction process to gain greater satisfaction and understanding of potential organization-wide adoption. Prior literature on mindfulness suggests organizations that channel a consistent alertness regarding implementation may be in a position to identify and assess the potential of new technologies (Swanson & Ramiller, 2004; Teo et al., 2010), especially when being pursued in less-rigorous dispersed ways. According to Carlo et al. (2012), through mindfulness, organizations focus on both successes and failures, interpret situations based on diverse viewpoints, integrate local understanding with a holistic vision, employ inventive improvisation-based responses, and maintain cognition and decision-making that is flexible. This past work suggests mindful organizations may encourage dispersed teams to select parameters in ways that encourage a more comprehensive understanding of a new technology and satisfaction with the outcomes while not structuring experiments. Therefore, given the non-rigorous and dispersed nature of IT introductions followed by many companies, this study explores the research question: How do some companies move towards the benefits (i.e., understanding, satisfaction, and learning) found in experimentation approaches without actually structuring trials by using a more mindful process to IT introductions?

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