Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 37 Number 4 2020 pp. 901-903

Editorial Introduction

Zwass, Vladimir


Innovation is an imperative, in all its varieties, from disruptive to incremental. It is as simple as that. Innovation is imperative for the Earth to sustain its people, for the people to thrive, and for the organizations to be able to contribute and to survive. Without exploration, exploitation withers. Innovation is the substance of our scholarly field, in all the meanings of these words. The opening paper of the issue, by Wietske van Osch and Burcu Bulgurcu, presents an investigation of idea generation, an initial phase of innovation, in the context of groups using enterprise social media (ESM), a common setting of today for communication and collaboration among knowledge workers. The researchers compare the ideation by open and closed social groups relying on an ESM whose log underlies the ability to conduct the quasi-experiment. Research questions are articulated on the basis of social network theory, to study the effectiveness of the bridging versus bonding ties in generating ideas by open versus closed groups. The work brings to the surface the importance of congruity between the nature of the group and the type of social network structure. It is a contribution both to the social network theory and to the pragmatics of innovation.

The investigation of social media continues in the next paper, in a different context, that of focused public networks. In this case, in a study by Peng Xie, Hailiang Chen, and Yu (Jeffrey) Hu, the focus of the network is the ongoing discussion of the Bitcoin financial market. There are numerous message threads on a discussion board selected for the study. Which of them are more effective in determining signal from conversational noise to thus lead to a better price prediction? The authors show that the less cohesive networks formed on the discussion board lead to more accurate market forecasting. This finding is in line with the wisdom of crowds being grounded in the diversity of the participants and operationalizes this paradigm for market pragmatics.

Mobile platforms are a preeminent locus of innovation activity. In another paper, Franck Soh and Varun Grover empirically study the marketplace of apps released for these platform ecosystems by the third-party developers. These developers gain access to a huge marketplace, as the platform users are about a third of humanity. However, this access does not always translate into shining market performance of the apps; the marketplace is equally hugely competitive. The authors argue and prove by their empirics that the release time of the apps is crucial to their financial performance. More specifically, Soh and Grover show that the app developers should leverage the innovations introduced by the platforms themselves to time their own app release. The econometric analysis indicates the preferred stages of app release. This is a contribution to the theory of innovations and, again, to the pragmatics of an online marketplace.

Market concentration in the online domain is a current concern of many, including the regulators. Vertical integration of firms is one of the ways a market’s participants disappear from the competitive arena. The next paper presents a formal economic study of a consequential factor in the potential merger between the internet service providers (ISPs) and the content providers on the platforms offered by these ISPs. Soohyun Cho, Liangfei Qiu, and Subhajyoti Bandyopadhyay analyze the interplay between the provision of zero-rated content (i.e., a content or data service free to the consumers under a variety of conditions) by content providers and the vertical integration between the ISP and the content provider. With the consideration of various comparative pricing contingencies for the alternatives to zero-rating, the authors are able to contribute to the important debate on the online market structures.

D. Harrison McKnight, Peng Liu, and Brian Pentland empirically study the trust change in information-technology (IT) products; more specifically, they study the initial stage of trust dynamics in the light of such events such as news releases. Notably, the authors’ findings show the influence of the cognitive factors of attention, sense-making, and thresholds (tipping points) on the dynamics of the initial trust, which may strongly influence the trajectory of the product. These factors are combined with the situational and person-related trust factors in a survey-based experiment where a sequence of reported events is expected to affect the initial trust in a technological artifact. Several novel contributions of the paper, including the study of change as a dependent variable and foregrounding of the cognitive event-related predictors, open new research avenues going beyond the trust research area.

The IT-enabled value co-creation by independent individuals along with organizational actors has emerged as a key factor of economic change. It is a complex phenomenon, in the state of flux and only partly understood. This is particularly so as the independent co-creators generally act in the frameworks created, maintained, evolved, and influenced by more or less formal organizations. In the next paper, Amber G. Young, Ariel D. Wigdor, and Gerald C. Kane present a study of the interplay between the core (a quasi-organization of established and ranked contributors acting as editors) and a periphery (more casual contributors) of the iconic product of co-creation, Wikipedia. The paper shows how the interaction between the sustained activity of the core and more transient contribution of the periphery enables a point of view (or bias?) of the online encyclopedia.

Online question-and-answer forums are another component of co-creation. Here, it is very easy to go into a downward spiral, with poor answers leading to fewer questions, and vice versa, until the shutdown. Reza Mousavi, Raghu Santhanam, and Keith Frey, in their empirical study of a community-based health-related forum, show the importance of the quality of the first answer. Far more than that, they show how such forums can algorithmically monitor the quality of the answers and by adjusting the order of the answers increase the quality of the overall forum. This is also an exemplar of a highly useful application of machine learning to health analytics that clearly can be ported to other co-creation domains.

Online consumer-oriented marketplaces, highly competitive as they are, rely on the accumulated reputation of the sellers. It is not often recognized that these reputations are another example of co-creation by consumers. Indeed, how often do you face a choice between responding to an evaluation questionnaire from a recently used seller and simply deleting the survey in the interest of expediency? One reputational mechanism is reputation badge (or a “gold medal”), awarded to the sellers surfaced as highly reputable by such a system. The mechanism includes a potential loss of a medal that has become tarnished by a deteriorating seller’s performance. What is the impact on sales of such an award and of such a loss? Hsing Kenneth Cheng, Weiguo Fan, Peipei Guo, Hailiang Huang, and Liangfei Qiu find a highly asymmetric effect on sales of the gain versus the loss of a reputation badge. They also present more nuanced workings of the badge-based reputation systems, and the evidence-based work tells you about the causal effects on the actual sales, which is meaningful indeed.

Open source software (OSS), once in the realm of value co-creation by unaffiliated individuals, has been embraced by major companies. As such, OSS development competes with the more traditional development of proprietary software. How should a firm choose between these two development modes? Yu Wang, Yu Chen, and Bonwoo Koo present a formal economic model in a duopoly setting in a market with indirect network effects, where each firm provides software and services, and faces this choice. The answer hinges on the strength of the network effect and on the service dependency of software. The work strongly implies that OSS development should be considered in the strategic arsenal of software companies.

Digital transformation of healthcare is moving apace, albeit unequally. The field of Information Systems has an important role to play in this broad development that can lead to a momentous improvement in human welfare. In the concluding paper of this Journal of Management Information Systems (JMIS) issue, Stefanie Steinhauser, Claudia Doblinger, and Stefan Hüsig study the introduction of telemedicine as discontinuous innovation in the setting of a large number of acute care hospitals across Europe. Their empirics and analyses show the key importance of the complementary digital assets: They have a greater effect on the adoption of telemedicine by an incumbent hospital than do governmental regulations. A digital transformation, in other words, has to be just that — a transformation — to be fully successful, rather than just a fragmentary introduction of a particular initiative. The work is a strong conclusion to this issue of JMIS, whose content focuses on the innovations of the two decades that have transpired in the current century.

Vladimir Zwass