The Paradoxical Effect of Social Media Usage on Developer Creativity and the Moderating Role of Openness to Experience

The Paradoxical Effect of Social Media Usage on Developer Creativity and the Moderating Role of Openness to Experience

Yumeng Miao, Rong Du, Veda C. Storey
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/JDM.2021070102
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Developer creativity is vital for software companies to innovate and survive. Studies on social media have yielded mixed results about its impact on creativity due to the ubiquitous nature of social media. This research differentiates the effects of informational and socializing social media usage on both incremental and radical creativity and explore the moderating role of a developer's openness to experience. Based on a survey of software developers, the authors show that openness positively moderates the impact of informational social media usage on incremental and radical creativity and negatively moderates the impact of socializing social media usage on both types of creativity. There is a stronger positive moderation for the relationship between informational social media usage and radical creativity compared to incremental creativity. The results provide a foundation for understanding explanations of the paradoxical effect of social media usage on creativity.
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Today’s competitive environment requires organizations to produce and implement new, creative ideas for survival and sustainability (Turk et al., 2005). Developer creativity is a vital source of creative solutions (Shalley et al., 2004). Creativity, the generation of new and useful ideas (Dong et al., 2017; Zou et al., 2020), has often been regarded as a general and unitary construct (Shalley et al., 2004). However, creative ideas can vary from minor adaptations to drastic breakthroughs. Incremental creativity refers to ideas that result from new applications, adaptations, or extensions of existing methods, processes, or products; radical creativity refers to the ideas that are completely new, revolutionary, and disruptive (Gilson et al., 2012; Madjar et al., 2011). Managers need to identify the types of creativity needed for projects and engage employees in corresponding activities to achieve the desired types of creativity.

For individual creativity, social media might help employees generate creative ideas (Parise, 2015). Many employees also use social media for work-related purposes, with ample evidence that social media: exposes users to extensive information and perspectives; provides access to resources; and improves users’ collective knowledge (Moqbela & Kock, 2018). Additionally, social media helps users communicate efficiently with colleagues, maintain interpersonal relationships, and expand social networks (Tajudeen et al., 2018). These advantages can help employees unleash creativity (Hu et al., 2017; Parise, 2015), yet be stumbling blocks (Kühnel et al., 2020). Studies have yielded paradoxical results on the relationship between social media and creativity (Chen et al., 2020). The inconsistencies may be caused by the single perspective with which social media usage is considered while overlooking the specific contexts within which social media is used (Zhang et al., 2019). This leads to the following research question: What are the boundary conditions under which social media impacts developer creativity?

The objective of this study, therefore, is to investigate the boundary conditions for the impact of social media usage on individual creativity. Although prior research has studied creativity at the team level, the actual work is usually accomplished at the individual level (Gong et al., 2013). We examine the impacts of social media usage on two types of developer creativity. We introduce openness to experience, as derived from the Big Five personality theory (Costa & McCrae, 1992), to describe the extent to which a person seeks out new ideas and experiences, and the degree to which someone is curious, broad-minded, intellectual, and artistic. Given the multidimensional nature of creativity, we differentiate creativity as incremental versus radical and categorize social media usage as informational versus socializing. Informational social media usage uses social media for information gathering and sharing; socializing social media usage captures the maintenance and development of social relationships (Hughes et al., 2012).

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