Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 27 Number 2 2010 pp. 55-86

Safe Contexts for Interorganizational Collaborations Among Homeland Security Professionals

Majchrzak, Ann and Jarvenpaa, Sirkka L

ABSTRACT: In many domains of increased turbulence and volatility, interorganizational ad hoc collaborations are common. One such domain is homeland security in which security professionals collaborate virtually with individuals outside of their own organizations in response to a security threat. In such a domain, a safe context is needed to ensure that interactions with collaborators not only help to solve the immediate threat but also avoid the improper use by outside parties of information released during these collaborations. We use the heuristic systematic model of information processing to hypothesize that the relationship between different safe context factors and a security professional's perceptions of collaboration success will be contingent on differences in geographic proximity of the collaborating parties--differences in proximity that are not related to differences in physical face-to-face contact but to differences in social proximity. Our exploratory empirical investigation finds support for the hypothesized interaction effect: safe contexts that require deeper processing are related to higher levels of perceived success when the parties are geographically proximal (with no differences in face-to-face contact), whereas safe contexts that involve heuristic-based processing are related to success when parties are geographically less proximal. Our findings suggest that the utility of safe context factors is contextualized based on the proximity of interacting parties, that geographical proximity's social space dimension plays a key role independent of differences in physical face-to-face contact, and that, practically, to be successful, ad hoc collaborators should have access to a range of safe context factors, using them in different combinations depending on the proximity of network members.

Key words and phrases: dual process theories, geographic proximity, knowledge protection, personal networks, safe contexts, security professionals