Whether digital technology will influence workplace insights for better or worse is a topic of ongoing debate. In a recent issue of Computers in Human Behavior, business scholars Greg R. Oldham of Tulane and Nancy Da Silva of San Jose State consider the evidence on both sides. Their work highlights four reasons technology will boost innovation, and four reasons it won’t.
HOW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY HELPS INNOVATION.
Information access. It’s easy to see how access to new and diverse information might spark an idea, and it’s equally easy to see how digital technology provides that access. One hardly needs empirical evidence to make this point, but the words of creativity researcher Todd Dewett bear paraphrasing: information may be the most important ingredient for creativity, and it’s the very thing that information technology exists to provide.
Job engagement. Workers who are committed to a company are logically more likely to pursue ideas for improving it. One way to enhance this employee engagement may be by providing the type of flexible work arrangements facilitated by digital technology–such as telecommuting. Indeed, research released earlier this year suggests that some people who work from home can be measurably more productive than those who go into the office.
Professional support. Employees who receive support surrounding their work are more likely to nurture new insights into full-fledged innovations. One recent study found a significant link between an employee’s creativity and the amount of emotional and informational support provided by primary coworkers. Since digital technology can improve social connections among colleagues, it may help create an environment of encouragement.
Personal connections. A great idea still needs sponsorship from above to see the light of day. One recent analysis of 216 employees in one company found that the long odds of implementing a creative ideas got better when they’d developed strong “buy-in” relationships with supervisors. Just as digital technology can strengthen connections across the employee chain, it can stretch them up and down it, too.
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