Divergent and Convergent Idea Generation in Teams: A Comparison of Computer-Mediated and Face-to-Face Communication

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Many tasks and decisions in business, including management consulting, are performed in group settings. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) tools (e.g., Lotus Notes) are increasingly being used by businesses to support teams in a variety of settings. Considerable research in information systems has demonstrated the advantages of “electronic brainstorming” (EBS) for generic tasks involving only divergent thinking. However, it is unclear whether the benefits of CMC extend to tasks that require both divergent and convergent processes. Per task–technology fit theory (TTF) (Zigurs and Buckland 1998), the use of computer-based group communication support tools, including “chat” systems in wide-spread use today, may be less effective for convergent processes than for divergent processes. This study experimentally compares the performance of computer-mediated and face-to-face (FTF) teams on tasks requiring both divergent and convergent processes. Consistent with theoretical predictions, the results revealed that computer-mediated teams outperformed FTF teams in the divergent aspects of the tasks, while FTF teams outperformed computer-mediated teams in the convergent aspects of the tasks.

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