Promoting Creativity in Temporary Customer-Employee Workgroups? Understanding the Psychological Processes of Joint Collaboration on Idea-Generating Performance

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    The remarkable transformation and rapid expansion of the services sector in the past two decades have led to the importance of creativity for service firms’ ability to innovate that can drive long-term competitive advantage (Alam 2006; Drejer 2004). Specifically, creative idea generation is a key component of the front end of the service innovation process, often called the “fuzzy front end” and recognized as one of the highest leverage points for a firm (Dahan and Hauser 2001). While existing research has predominantly focused on the employees’ role in generating creative ideas or solutions to the firm (Uhl- Bien and Graen 1998), soliciting ideas from the customer is a paradigm shift for innovation that has gained increasing attention (Chan, Li, and Zhou 2015). This emerging shift accordingly has increased the emphasis on the collaborative roles of customers and employees (Melton and Hartline 2010).

    While considerable literatures have examined the impacts of their joint collaboration on various outcomes such as satisfaction, firm productivity, employee job performance, service customization etc., relatively few attention directed at understanding its effects on their creative performance (e.g., new idea generation) (Yim, Chan, and Lam 2012). Moreover, prior work tends to focus on economic rationales for the effects of customer collaboration (e.g., Cao et al. 2011; Chan, Yim, and Lam 2010), but exclude the more holistic, psychological processes (e.g., a flow state) that are essential for creative performance (Chan and Li 2010; Csikszentmihalyi 1990; Engeser 2012). Existing literature also mostly examines the involvement of customers and employees in services at individual level but neglect to take from a workgroup-level approach in understanding ways in promoting group creative performance. Indeed, many organizations (e.g., Dell, IBM, and P&G) nowadays often use temporary workgroups to enable the collaboration among their customers and employees to complete a specific task within a limited time (e.g., visioning groups, ad hoc problem-solving groups; Grawitch et al. 2003). Those temporary workgroups are mainly responsible for generating ideas to be used as input in solving a given problem of the firm, which thus is crucial to understand ways that can increase their creative performance.

    Therefore, this project aims to examine the impacts of the joint collaboration of customers and service employees, specifically in temporary workgroups context, on group creative performance (i.e., new idea generation) and thereby illuminating the underlying psychological processes. Specifically, we build on flow theory, as proposed by Csikszentmihalyi (1990), and introduce the concept of “group flow,” defined as a collective optimal experience at work characterizing by the emotional state of enjoyment and being highly concentrated on tasks at hand when the customer-employee workgroup is performing at the peak of its abilities. Accordingly, this project aims to address the following objectives:
    1. Investigate the joint collaboration of customers and service employees in temporary workgroups (“JointCol”) and the resulting impact on group creative performance in terms of new idea generation with the facets of new idea quantity (i.e., volume) and idea quality (i.e., radicalness, and usefulness of the idea).
    2. Determine the role of group flow in mediating the impacts of JointCol on group creative performance, according to two key boundary conditions: intra-group efficacy variability and collective efficacy beliefs.
    3. Explore group depletion as another psychological route that may channel the effects of JointCol on group creative performance when the boundary conditions for the development of group flow are not achieved.
    4. Reveal the potential dark and bright sides of the influences of group flow and group depletion on creative performance for temporary customer-employee workgroups.

    This proposal represents the first empirical investigation of the psychological processes of group flow, in addition to group depletion, to determine the unique effects of JointCol within temporary customer- employee workgroups on group creative performance of new idea generation (both idea quality and quantity). With the use of both experimental and survey data, our results should offer promising guidance to managers that foster the use of temporary workgroups in encouraging customer–employee collaboration in their new service development processes and developing service innovation
    Effective start/end date1/01/1931/12/21


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