and creativity have become crucial aspects of the workplace. From unique
working environments to one-of-a-kind marketing strategies, companies
and organizations are adapting to gain a competitive advantage in their
This should also be the case for information technology (IT),
Information Systems Professor Stacie Petter said. It is often a
challenge for some organizations to be innovative and creative, she
said, as many IT systems are being used in their intended purposes to be
more efficient or to meet goals.
"An organization is not able to gain a competitive advantage by using IT
in the same way everyone else is using it," Petter said. "We need to
find ways for people to use IT and information systems creatively to
gain an advantage that other organizations might not be able to, but
that requires the right people being creative or innovative in their
approach to using the technology."
But a person's ability to be creative or innovative within a technology
or system depends on their view of themselves in regards to that
technology or system, also known as their IT identity, Petter said.
People have different types of identities, including social or material.
Social identity defines people for who they are in a group, such as
their career or the university they attend, while material identity
reflects how people view themselves in relation to objects, such as
possessions or things they value.
This latter concept introduces IT identities, where people can develop a
sense of who they are when using certain information technologies, in
the article "IT Identity: A Key Determinant of IT Features and
Exploratory Usage," written by Petter, Michelle Carter of Washington
State University, Varun Grover of the University of Arkansas and Jason
Bennett Thatcher of Temple University. The article was recently
published in MIS Quarterly.
In the study, Petter and the research team attempted to discover if
people change the way they use technology and how much they explore the
features of new technology based on their IT identity. The team surveyed
303 full-time working professionals who use a program—Microsoft
Excel—and 320 professionals who use a device—their smartphone in the
workplace. The survey focused on novel and innovative features on both
platforms and gauged how users utilized these elements, if at all. Three
weeks later, a second survey was sent out to the same group to gauge
whether or not the participants had used the features.
"We wanted to see if a person's IT identity was related to exploratory
use of a technology," Petter said. "It was a sense of, ‘Did you know you
could do this?' and then, ‘Did you try it out?'"
Petter and the team found feature usage was positively impacted by the
availability of organizational support and resources when the user has a
high level of IT identity. This is an important finding, she said, as it
shows that building a sense of IT identity can motivate employees to use
technology and information systems in unique ways.
"Part of our role in information systems is to help people, managers and
organizations to use technologies in efficient, effective and creative
ways," Petter said. "This research helps us understand that IT identity
plays a role in the range of features people use and how creative and
innovative they are when using technology."
information the team discovered in this study adds another piece to the
puzzle, Petter said. Most of the information systems research currently
published focuses on the use of the systems, but this study dives into
understanding an additional reason why people use or don't use a
technology. From a practical standpoint, the research helps managers
understand the importance of promoting a strong IT identity in the
technology and providing needed resources to be creative and innovative.
Several other studies spawned from this particular project and while the
topic of IT identity is not the sole focus of Petter's research, she
does see how it relates to her other work.
"This study is one piece of my focus," she said. "Overall, I am
interested in the impacts of technology. What do those impacts look
like? How do they change who we are as individuals, groups,
organizations or society? IT identity definitely impacts how we use
technology. It is one piece of the bigger puzzle that I'm interested in