Toward an Ecology Theory of Creativity in IT Products: A Study of Mobile Device Industry

In a creative process, divergent thinking needs to be stimulated to generate novel ideas; yet these ideas must be synthesized to produce something valuable. Hence to foster creativity in developing IT products, creators need to manage the tension between novelty and value. Since the forces affecting the novelty-value tension often exist outside a creator's group or organization, we apply organizational ecology theory to propose an industry-level, ecological model for understanding the novelty of IT products. Analyzing data on 2,903 mobile devices developed by 156 firms worldwide over a ten-year period, we found that legitimation of the products in a market niche and competition between market niches enhanced product novelty. However, not all kinds of competition stimulated novelty. Competition within each niche hampered novelty. This ecological perspective contributes to creative IT/IS research and has the potential to bridge studies of creativity and digital innovation.


Proceedings of 2016 International Conference on Information Systems (ICIS), Dec. 11-14, Dublin, Ireland.
Best Paper Award (1st place)
Ping Wang
Myeong Lee
Xu Meng
Brian Butler