TRACK 7: ICT’s, Collaboration & Service Innovation: Bridging Boundaries and Cultures
Michael Barrett, University of Cambridge,
Eivor Oborn, University of London,
Sheryl Thompson, University of the West Indies,
The growth of services reflects the transformation of the world economy from industrial to post-industrial service society and has been important to developed and developing economies alike. ICT’s have played a central role in this transition to an emphasis on the service economy. Recent studies have examined the relationship between the use of new ICT’s and poverty alleviation in Jamaica, India, Ghana and South Africa (Horst and Miller 2007), and the remarkable development and deployment of new mobile applications such as MPESA for financial inclusion in Kenya (Hayes and Westrup 2012). The potential for a wide range of services both for development and growth in other sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, and the public sector is far-reaching.
An interesting and critical dynamic in these service innovation efforts is the collaboration between organisations in developed and developing countries involving the bridging of boundaries and culture. This may involve the development of a ‘bridgehead’ or onsite teams for managed services delivery and development, formal and informal modes of collaborations between people and organizations in developed and developing countries in building new services, or the leveraging of diaspora for business development which was so critical in the early developments of the Indian offshoring markets (Krishna, Oja, and Barrett 2000).
Theoretically and conceptually these collaborations involve boundary work and cross-cultural working. A view of boundaries as dynamic and enacted is emerging as an important recent theme in the sociological literature (Vallas 2001). For example, Abbott (1995) has argued for conceptualising “things of boundaries” — a reversal of the ontological priority of organisations and boundaries. In other words, his relational theory of boundaries suggests that we should “start with boundaries and investigate how people create (social) entities by linking these boundaries into units” (1995, p.857). It is not that social or occupational (as in Abbott’s example) groups first exist and then enter into relation with other entities- for example in developing new organisational forms; rather, privileged groups engage in boundary work (Lamont 1992) and boundary-defining acts of exclusion, thus (re)constructing distinctions between themselves and others.
The importance of working across diverse organisational and national cultures in the development of service innovation underlines the importance of examining organisational issues such as knowledge sharing and creation in a multicultural context (Barrett and Oborn 2010), one which is inclusive of marginal voices. Cultural diversity includes but goes beyond an interest in the influence of national cultures on management and organizations. Organizations can be seen as a nexus of multiple logics, circuits of power and divergent identities oriented around occupational groups and generations. In addition, at a more macro level, the impact of immigration policies on workforce mobility has implications for organizational development and society (Avgerou 2002). Recent studies of cross-cultural IS adoption in MNC’s (Shoib and Jones 2003, Liu and Westrup 2003) have suggested the need to unpack culture, going beyond viewing it as a static, fixed entity and as only one aspect of actors’ sense-making activities (Walsham and Sahay 2005).
The role of cross cultural issues has increasingly been noted in software development (Barrett and Oborn 2010) with increased labour mobility and the proliferation of global work arrangements (Levina and Vaast 2008). Organisational and national culture can significantly influence how people view expertise and information (Leidner and Kayworth 2006). Status issues associated with software coding for service innovation has been noted to influence social boundaries (Levina and Vaast 2008, Metiu 2006). Another key difficulty in cross-cultural working is sharing knowledge between social groups, though this issue has received little attention to date.
This track aims to contribute to the development of our knowledge and understanding of these conceptual themes and issues. We welcome papers that broadly address these topics. Below, we highlight some possible research areas which are not meant to be exhaustive questions which are not meant to be exhaustive:
The influence of boundary working on service innovation in the development and use of mobile applications in developing countries
The innovation process and its evolution amongst multiple stakeholders and across heterogeneous groups over time
Working across national, occupational, and corporate cultures in processes of globalization
Service innovation through knowledge sharing and development in cross cultural contexts
The role of affect in boundary processes and collaborative working for service design and innovation
The role of boundary objects in enabling or constraining cross cultural and development boundaries
The role of diaspora in the development and growth of local communities of innovation
The role of ICT’s such as mobile infrastructure to promote both development and sectoral growth
For paper format and submission guidelines please refer to the main conference website.
Abbott, A. 1995. “Things of Boundaries.” Social Research 62 857-882.
Avgerou, C. Information Systems and Global Diversity, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2002.
Barrett M, Oborn E (2010) ‘Boundary Object Use in Cross-Cultural Software Development Teams’, Human Relations. 63(8) 1199-1221.
Hayes, N., Westrup, C. forthcoming in Information & Organization
Horst, H., Miller, D. (2007) The Cell Phone: An Anthropology of Communication, Berg Publishers.
Krishna, S., Ojha, A.K. and Barrett, M. (2000) "Competitive advantage in the software industry: an analysis of the Indian experience." In Avgerou, C. and Walsham, G. (eds.): Information technology in context: studies from the perspective of developing countries. Aldershot: Ashgate, pp.182-197
Lamont, M. 1992. Money, Morals and Manners: The Culture of the French and American Upper-Middle Class. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Leidner, D.E., & Kayworth, T. Review: A Review of Culture in Information Systems
Research: Toward a Theory of Information Technology Conflict. MIS Quarterly, 2006, 30(2),
Levina, N. & Vaast, E. Innovating or Doing as Told? Status Differences and Overlapping
Boundaries in Offshore Collaboration. MIS Quarterly, 2008, 32(2), 307-332.
Liu, W. and Westrup, C. “ICT’s and Organizational Control Across Cultures: The Case of a UK Multinational Operating in China,” Proceedings in IFIP 9.4 and 8.2 Joint Conference on Organizational Information Systems in the Context of Globalization, Athens Greece, June 2003. Edited by M. Korpela, R. Montealegre and A. Poulymenakou, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 155-168.
Metiu, A. Owning the Code: Status Closure in Distributed Groups. Organization Science, 2006, 17(4), 418-435.
Shoib, G., and Jones, M. “Focusing on the Invisible: The Representation of IS in Egypt,” Information Technology and People, (16:4), 2003, pp. 440-460.
Vallas, S. Symbolic boundaries and the re-division of labor: engineers, workers and the
restructuring of factory life. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 2001, 18, 3-39.
Walsham, G., and Sahay, S. “Research on IS in Developing Countries: Current Landscape and Future Prospects,” Information Technology for Development, 2006 12(1) 7-24.