Meredith Turner
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The Modern App: Technology & I-O Crossovers: How Multidisciplinary Views Are Vital to Our Learning

Evan Sinar, DDI; and Tiffany Poeppelman, LinkedIn

The scope of technology’s influence—on how we work, buy, and interact—makes studying its impact an inherently multidisciplinary endeavor. SIOP’s recent Future of Work task force identified the necessity of adopting multidisciplinary perspectives as one of the top forces impacting I-O psychology, alongside AI-driven automation, the changing nature of work, new data science methods, and emerging technology and tools (Fink, Battista, Behrend, Kolmstetter, Kraiger, & Macey, 2018). Despite these recommendations, as a field we often limit our sources, citations, and targets of the work we produce to the journals with which we’re intimately familiar. This can be an acceptable approach for subject areas published primarily in I-O or business journals. However, it is a risky model for fast-advancing technology topics (or traditional topics being disrupted by technology) drawing research and conceptual attention from, and contributing to, fields outside our own—including from the field of information technology itself.

In this edition of The Modern App, we propose a multidisciplinary and data-driven approach to first identify technology-centric publications containing relevant content, and then extract learning from selected articles. As we will discuss, these technology-centric articles address topics closely matched to I-O’s focus on people in the workplace, yet they are written with technology (and its foundational research) as a the primary focus and workplace secondary. This contrasts with I-O publications which, understandably given the charter of the journals in which they are published, have individuals at work as the central focus and technology as secondary. We feel that ultimately, the study of technology’s impact will require a balance between these views.

Without drawing on the research and frameworks from the authors who know technology best, many of whom rarely or never publish their work in I-O journals, we won’t succeed in understanding and conducting research on technology’s impact more than we do now. While this approach doesn’t negate the need for translational research applying technology concepts and models back to our own journals, we do contend that we as I-O psychologists can’t and shouldn’t expect to understand the workplace impact of technology without drawing on the research and theoretical base generated outside our field.

What Can We Learn From Leading Technology Journals?

Our methodology, which we offer for both consideration and criticism, for identifying valuable and untapped opportunities for stronger technology-to-I-O knowledge exchange started by identifying 10 top technology-focused journals: MIS Quarterly; MIS Quarterly Executive; MIT Technology Review; Journal of Information Technology; Information Systems Journal;  Information Systems Research; Journal of Strategic Information Systems; Journal of Management Information Systems; Journal of the Association for Information Systems; Communications of the ACM.

From the EBSCO database used by many applied and academic organizations (also available through SIOP; see http://www.siop.org/sra/), we exported all articles published in these technology journals from January 2016 through March 2018, totalling 2,223 distinct articles. The resulting datafile contains 33 metadata variables for each article, including article title, authors, affiliations, and the focus variable for this analysis, subject. EBSCO codes every article in its database using a series of subject terms (each article can be coded to multiple subjects)—among the most common terms for the technology publications are custom computer programming services, information storage and retrieval systems, artificial intelligence, wired telecommunications carriers, algorithms, social media, and blockchains. Importantly, EBSCO uses a uniform set of subject terms across all publications it indexes, allowing journals to be directly compared across disciplines.

We next exported a similar dataset for eight leading I-O journals, totalling 1,596 distinct articles:

Academy of Management Review; Administrative Science Quarterly; Journal of Management; Personnel Psychology; Journal of Vocational Behavior; Journal of Organizational Behavior; Organizational Research Methods; Journal of Applied Psychology.

Because the two sets of journals use the same subject taxonomy, we next identified a set of crossover topics receiving attention from both technology and I-O journals (some subjects, such as custom computer programming services and internet security were exclusively found in technology journals, whereas other subjects such as group identity and organizational citizenship behavior were exclusively found in I-O journals). For the purposes of this analysis, we wanted to better understand subject areas with at least some (albeit typically unbalanced) coverage within both disciplines.

The bubble chart below summarizes the initial outcomes from our analysis, visualizing a subset of subjects with article coverage in each discipline. Subjects are displayed as individual circles. These circles are placed horizontally based on the number of articles published in I-O journals for that subject and placed vertically based on those articles published in technology journals for that subject. Circles are sized based on the total number of articles across both journal sets for the given subject.

 

To reduce the nearly-endless avenues for exploration using this approach, we’ve elected to showcase three subject areas in further detail: two (leadership and job performance) receiving heavy attention from I-O journals and a small but notable set of articles within the technology publications, and one (strategic planning) that was a moderate focus for many technology publications, yet very few from the I-O journals. We’ll next review each of these subjects as exemplars with representative articles from technology journals and potential lessons these articles hold for I-O psychology.

Leadership (heavy attention in I-O journals; low attention in technology journals)

Article: Role of digital capabilities in unleashing the power of managerial improvisation (Levallet & Chan, 2018)

  • Brief summary: Identifies and provides conceptual and case study examples of two organizational digital capabilities—flexible IT infrastructure and well-developed information management capability—that can advance “managerial improvisation.”
  • Implications for I-O: The article provides a framework for connecting digital technology systems to leader behaviors, innovation specifically. I-O psychology can use these concepts to discern and generate recommendations for employees and leaders seeking to better understand and proactively act on—for the benefit of innovation and adaptability—digital technology influences on the workplace.

Article: How LEGO built the foundations and enterprise capabilities for digital leadership (El Sawy, Kræmmergaard, Amsinck, & Vinther, 2016)

  • Brief summary: Defines digital leadership as strategic actions to advance digitalization for the organization and the surrounding business environment. Characterizes the scope of digital leadership to include distinct perspectives on business strategy, business models, the IT function, enterprise platforms, mindsets and skill sets, and the workplace, using the LEGO Group as a case study example for the application of these concepts.
  • Implications for I-O: Digital leadership is a high-interest topic in the business community, yet it suffers from a severe lack of conceptual clarity and measurement precision. I-O psychology can positively contribute to both of these goals while drawing on this article and others from technology publications blending qualitative, quantitative, and case study approaches to define digital leadership as experienced by and acted upon by major corporations.

Job Performance (heavy attention in I-O journals; low attention in technology journals)

Article: A nomological network of knowledge management system use: Antecedents and consequences (Zhang & Venkatesh, 2017)

  • Brief summary: Clarifies the role—and often unfulfilled potential—of knowledge management systems (KMS) to improve employee-level job outcomes such as performance and satisfaction. Researchers used a blended qualitative and quantitative approach to identify help-seeking and help-providing purposes of KMS, as drivers of job outcomes.
  • Implications for I-O: With escalating information demands placed on employees, knowledge acquisition, maintenance, and application increasing draws on technology systems to supplement individual capabilities. I-O psychology can adopt the techniques used by technology researchers to disentangle the roles of technology and employees in driving job performance and can guide talent management practices toward optimal and fair use of KMS and other technology systems, accounting for both organizational and individual perspectives.

Article: Use of online social networking services from a theoretical perspective of the motivation-participation-performance framework (Salehan, Kim, & Kim, 2017)

  • Brief summary: Analyzes the interrelations among social networking service (SNS) motivational, participatory, and performance factors. Identifies a set of “why” motivations underlying SNS use, a pair of “how” ways in which employees participate in SNS at work, and a pair of outcomes (personal and job performance) of these services. Created and empirically supported a model of SNS motivation, participation, and outcome impact.
  • Implications for I-O: This study advances the depth and scope of research into SNS use in the workplace, producing evidence-based guidance that I-O psychologists can incorporate into our practice, and extend through our research.

Strategic Planning (low attention in I-O journals; heavy attention in technology journals)

Article: Creating value in online communities: The sociomaterial configuring of strategy, platform, and stakeholder engagement (Barrett, Oborn, & Orlikowski, 2016)

  • Brief summary: Explored the ways in which online communities (OC) create value over time, through a longitudinal field study of such a community in a healthcare organization. Defined OC’s value as arising from an integrated configuration of strategy, digital platforms, and stakeholder engagement, and culminating in financial, epistemic, ethical, service, reputational, and platform forms of value.
  • Implications for I-O: As I-O psychologists, our work often targets either a micro or macro level of analysis to gauge the impact of organizational interventions. These approaches may be misaligned or insufficient in the context of technology’s enterprise-wide stakeholder groups and widely varying aspects of value these systems produce. We can draw on studies such as this one to design research, and implement practices, that take into account an appropriately comprehensive view of technology’s impact, influences, and sources of value.

Article: Datification and its human, organizational, and societal effects:  The strategic opportunities and challenges of algorithmic decision making (Galliers, Newell, Shanks, & Topi, 2017)

  • Brief summary: Introduces a special section of The Journal of Strategic Information Systems focused on algorithmic decision making and its ever-growing role in society: Despite the expanding influence of these algorithms, their personal and societal consequences remain insufficiently clear and extremely controversial. Outlines a research agenda and a structured set of key considerations for this topic area.
  • Implications for I-O: I-O psychology is well-positioned to join and produce powerful contributions to this research agenda; as a discipline our scope of knowledge and influence is closely aligned with this line of thought and discussion: how data-driven decisions can be implemented with full awareness and consideration of their individual and organizational impact.

Connecting to SIOP’s 2018 Workforce Trends

As another approach to connecting back to these trends and findings, we look further at our SIOP Top 10 Workforce Trends, which also show important links between the gaps and opportunities in what we know is impacting organizations. Based on each, we offer additional consideration based on the mapped trends below, and the exemplar articles above, along with where we can apply learnings to our work.

Strategic Planning and SIOP #5 Trend: Changing Nature of How People Work

Linked to the #5 trend this year “The Changing Nature of How People Work,” we can see online communities are taking a major role in pushing the boundaries of the 9-to-5 desk jobs. Additionally, as big data and algorithmic decision making take shape, we see the methods for how people do work is continuously changing. By monitoring the technology trends, we can see an increased opportunity for I-O psychologists to assist organizations in determining how jobs will and should change along with ensuring the best possible outcomes.

Job Performance and the #9 Trend: Job Automation

The #9 SIOP workplace trend was “Automation of Jobs and Tasks,” which relates well to the research on knowledge management systems (KMS). With our limited knowledge in how to apply and drive KMS in the workplace, we may risk missing out are bigger opportunities that can increase employee job performance. Additionally, with automation looming in the years to come, it could be the application of KMS that get us there faster. With technology innovations moving faster than imagined, we will need to help develop and train employees as work demands and tasks change.

Leadership and the #7 Trend: Leadership Improvement

Related to the #7 SIOP workplace trend “Leadership Development and Improvement” is the leadership trend spotted in the analysis above. Based on what was highlighted in the research, we can see the digital leadership skills are showing an evolution in the way companies are fostering their most senior execs and management. Adapting to the changing landscape shows us the methods being utilized and others we can test or support in the workplace.

Overall, the aim of this issue was to highlight opportunities to extend this approach of validating across various publications and multidisciplinary focus to strengthen the connection between future I-O research and practice and outside sources, most notably the technology journals cited above (and the authors, potential research collaborators, publishing within them). Building on these concepts, our intention is to use the next Modern App column to explore additional areas using the dataset above.

If you have a preference and want to vote on specific topic above, message us and let us know! We also welcome suggestions on how to expand and improve on the first-attempt approach described above.

Contact us on LinkedIn: Evan Sinar & Tiffany Poeppelman

Contact us on Twitter: @EvanSinar & @TRPoeppelman

Interested in reading other past issues? Below is the full set and topics of our Modern App columns since January 2017:

  • 2017 Technology Trends: Are I-O Psychologists Prepared? – January 2017
  • #SIOP17 Program Preview: Technology Roundup for Orlando – April 2017
  • #SIOP17 Review: Technology Takeaways From Orlando – July 2017
  • Modern App: Don't Believe (Most of) The Technology Hype – October 2017
  • The Modern App: How Technology Is Advancing Team-Centric Work – April 2018

References

Barrett, M., Oborn, E., & Orlikowski, W. (2016). Creating value in online communities: The sociomaterial configuring of strategy, platform, and stakeholder engagement. Information Systems Research, 27(4), 704-723.

El Sawy, O. A., Kræmmergaard, P., Amsinck, H., & Vinther, A. L. (2016). How LEGO built the foundations and enterprise capabilities for digital leadership. MIS Quarterly Executive15(2).

Fink, A. A., Battista, M., Behrend, T. S., Kolmstetter, E. B., Kraiger, K., & Macey, W. H. (2018, April). Forging the future of work with I-O psychology. Session presented at the 33rd Annual Conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Chicago, Illinois.

Galliers, R., Newell, S., Shanks, G., & Topi, H. (2017). Datification and its human, organizational and societal effects: The strategic opportunities and challenges of algorithmic decision-making. Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 26(3), 185-190.

Levallet, N., & Chan, Y. E. (2018). Role of digital capabilities in unleashing the power of managerial improvisation. MIS Quarterly Executive, 17(1), 1-21.

Salehan, M., Kim, D. J., & Kim, C. (2017). Use of online social networking services from a theoretical perspective of the motivation-participation-performance framework. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 18, 141.

Zhang, X., & Venkatesh, V. (2017). A nomological network of knowledge management system use: Antecedents and consequences. MIS Quarterly41(4), 1275-1306. doi: 10.25300/MISQ/2017/41.4.12

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