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Abstract

This paper introduces an attention-based view of idea integration that underscores the importance of information system (IS) user interface design. Presenting ideas via an IS user interface can play an important role in enabling and motivating idea integration in electronic brainstorming systems (EBS), and thus can improve productivity. Building on a cognitive network model of creativity and the ability-motivation framework, our attention-based view focuses on two major attributes of a user interface: visibility and prioritization. Visibility enables idea integration by directing individuals’ attention to a limited set of ideas, and prioritization enhances the motivation for idea integration by providing a relevant proxy for the value of the shared ideas. The theory developed in this paper is distinct from previous research on EBS in at least two ways: (1) it focuses on idea integration as the desired outcome, and (2) given that EBS do not universally outperform verbal brainstorming, the proposed theory revisits the links between user interface and idea integration. Idea integration in groups is an attention-intensive process that is essential for organizational creativity and thus for establishing knowledge-based capabilities. A lack of integration can significantly reduce the value of idea sharing, which has been the main focus of the EBS literature. Our theory posits that the ability of electronic brainstorming to outperform nominal or verbal brainstorming depends on its ability to leverage the capabilities of the IS artifact for enhancing idea integration. Our theory provides a foundation for new approaches to EBS and computer-mediated collaboration research. The emphasis on idea integration provides designers and managers of EBS with practical, cognition-based criteria for choosing interface features. Our theory also has implications for the practice and research of knowledge management, especially for the attention-based view of the organization.

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