Information Culture and Effective Use of Information Tools at Work: Conceptualizing and Measuring Group Adoption

Information Culture and Effective Use of Information Tools at Work: Conceptualizing and Measuring Group Adoption

Colin D. Furness, Chun Wei Choo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7422-5.ch015
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Office work is increasingly collaborative in the 21st century. ‘Information culture' is a broad set of values and behavioural workplace norms pertaining to information management and use. To investigate whether information culture influences use of collaborative information tools, conceptualization and measurement instruments are presented for information culture and measuring effective use. ‘Group adoption' is a behavioural proxy for effective use, and ‘information sharing' and ‘proactive information use' were selected as behavioural proxies for information culture. In a study of an engineering firm, group adoption was correlated with actual use of an information tool and with two tool attitude measures. Group adoption was also correlated with both information culture measures. The findings here suggest new avenues of research into the broader applicability of group adoption, and the ways in which conceptualization and measurement of information culture may be further developed.
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This chapter explores two complex and inter-related constructs. The first is information culture, lying at the intersection of organizational culture and how information is used at work. The second is group adoption, resolving the multiple ways of conceptualizing and measuring effective use of knowledge sharing tools. Having defined these, the central research question is then explored: what impact might information culture have on group adoption of tools intended to promote knowledge sharing and use?

This chapter unfolds in four parts. The balance of this introduction provides a general foundation for information use in workplace groups. The second section develops a definition of information culture, rooted in organizational culture and related theories that focus on behaviours and norms concerning the use of information in a group. The third section explores ways in which effective use has been conceptualized in the literature, making the case that group adoption is a useful construct for studying the role of information culture on the use of tools to support knowledge work. The final section presents empirical evidence that information culture and group adoption are measurable and clearly related.

When considering aspects of culture, workplaces, and collaborative tools, the level of analysis is necessarily the workplace “group,” a term that requires a clear definition. For some researchers, the term refers to an assembly of strangers brought together temporarily, as for a lab experiment; for others, the term denotes a stable collection of people who work together regularly. This latter definition is how “group” is used in this chapter. In the words of Guzzo and Dickson (1996), a group is one whose composition is stable over time, who work together with a set of shared goals, and:

Who see themselves and who are seen by others as a social entity, who are interdependent because of the tasks they perform as members of a group, who are embedded in one or more larger social systems (such as an organization) and who perform tasks that affect others outside the group. (p. 308)

What is important here is that “group” is a relatively amorphous construct; groups are bounded by their particular conditions of membership, be they formal/functional (e.g., project teams), professional (e.g., communities of practice), geographical (e.g., employees of a branch office), or predominantly social (e.g., communities of interest). Thus, within an organization, groups may be constructed at many levels, including that of the organization itself. Individuals may therefore belong to several groups in an organization, and groups may have their own distinctive norms.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Organizational Culture: “How things are done around here,” comprising a set of shared norms, behaviours, and values. The management school posits that organizational culture can be directed by top-down leadership; the interpretive school sees culture bottom-up enactment by groups. Both agree that observable, stable patterns of behaviour provide a means for quantitative and qualitative measurement. See Martin (2002) .

Technology Acceptance Model (TAM): This model posits that a person’s behavioural intention to use a given technology can be predicted by their assessment of “perceived ease of use,” and “perceived usefulness.” Behavioural intention, in turn, can predict actual use. This model has been shown to be robust with a wide range of users and technologies. However, it does not perform well in contexts of group behaviour. See Davis (1989) .

Information Culture: A subset of organizational culture concerned with norms, values, and patterns of behaviour that influence how information is used in an organization. Group information processing, information orientation, and information politics are all manifestations of information culture. Like organizational culture, there is an emphasis on observable, stable patterns of behaviour for conceptualization and measurement. See Choo et al. (2008) AU38: The citation "Choo et al. (2008)" matches multiple references. Please add letters (e.g. "Smith 2000a"), or additional authors to the citation, to uniquely match references and citations. .

Principal Component Analysis: A statistical procedure that is used to identify which items in a questionnaire are highly correlated with each other. Clusters of correlated items indicate the presence of an underlying, independent construct or ‘factor’. This procedure can be used to verify expected constructs in a questionnaire, or to discover new ones.

Group Adoption: The extent to which a tool or technology has become embedded and routinized in work. Embeddedness refers to growing dependence on the tool as it becomes integrated into work practices. Routineness is a measure of the extent to which use is habitual, and not matter of frequency of use. However, these two dimensions are highly correlated and not distinguishable from each other in the Group Adoption instrument. See Furness (2010) .

Information Orientation: Three capabilities that a firm requires to make effective use of information: Information Management, Information Technology, and Information Behaviours and Values (IBVs). There are six IBVs: Information Sharing, Proactive Information Use, Information Transparency, Information Integrity, Information Formality, and Information Control. See Marchand et al. (2000) AU39: The in-text citation "See Marchand et al. (2000)" is not in the reference list. Please correct the citation, add the reference to the list, or delete the citation. .

Information Politics: The interplay between structure, power, and information use in organizations, providing a categorical perspective on organizational culture. There are five main forms of organizational information politics: Anarchy, Feudalism, Monarchy, Technological Utopianism, and Federalism. See Davenport et al. (1992) .

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