This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
body gestures, and facial expressions (Kahn, 1989), whereas online interaction requires
users to establish other forms.
Th...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
As humour is seen to facilitate the processes of both learning and creativity, there
seems to be a logical path from humou...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
interaction may result in a focused online community that develops shared meanings and
objectives (Chiu et al., 2006). The...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
raised up frustration over how their core organization would eventually support effective
social-media use and whether the...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
Table 1 Types of humour in online innovation environments
Type Typical content Value Nature
Joking Posting funny pics,
vid...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
References
Afuah, A. & Tucci, C.L. (2012). Crowdsourcing As a Solution to Distant Search.
Academy of Management Review, Vo...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
Jeppesen, L.B. & Frederiksen, L. (2006). Why Do Users Contribute to Firm-Hosted User
Communities? The Case of Computer-Con...
This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy &
Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-...
Wasko, M. & Faraj, S. (2005). Why should I share? Examining social capital and
knowledge contribution in electronic networ...
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Humour and online innovation environments

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Humour and online innovation environments

  1. 1. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 1 Humour – Funny But Efficient Way Of Supporting Online Innovation Activities Miia Kosonen PhD, researcher, 56120 Ruokolahti, Finland. E-mail: koomikoo@gmail.com Abstract: Open innovation mechanisms such as user communities and crowdsourcing are gaining increasing attention and social-media tools have become a part of everyday business. To surpass the overall hype characterizing online innovation, we need to understand the micro-level processes of knowledge sharing and creation among users. Indeed, humour is a key element of any human interaction. This study links the literature streams on organizational humour, computer-mediated communication and online innovation, opening up a new perspective for IM scholars and practitioners. The study contributes by identifying four sources and five types of potentially idea-spurring humour online: joking, humanizing, output-centered, conversational, and storytelling. The opportunities for developing online- innovation platforms to better support learning and creativity seem various and many of them yet unrealized. Community hosts and managers may facilitate ideation simply by making it more fun. Keywords: humour; innovation; creativity; learning; online innovation; open innovation; ideas; joking; community; crowdsourcing 1 Introduction Open innovation mechanisms such as user communities, online co-creation and crowdsourcing have recently gained increasing attention among innovation management scholars and practitioners (Keinz et al., 2012; Faraj et al., 2011; Nambisan and Baron, 2007, 2009; Füller et al., 2007). They are seen as novel ways to enhance innovation and learning by incorporating not only lead users' and hobbyists' knowledge base into that of the focal firm (Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006; Poetz and Schreier, 2012), but also marginal or potential users’ (Jeppesen and Lakhani, 2010; Hewing, 2013). In this vein, online exchanges are seen to provide valuable output and ideas for both new product development and modifying existing products. Open innovation initiatives represent promising avenues for harnessing external knowledge and ideas, but their success fully depends on the creative input by users taking part in the online interactions, to which the communicative and collaborative processes significantly rely on. Indeed, many user-innovation platforms have not been able to encourage and maintain ongoing activity (Nambisan and Baron, 2009) or a large user base which would increase the probability of gaining valuable output (Afuah and Tucci, 2012). As a result, they may suffer from lack of participation or lack of genuinely innovative ideas. One reason to this could be very simple: participating and innovating
  2. 2. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 2 online is not fun enough.1 While the importance of humour has already been widely acknowledged in the literature on organizational creativity, learning and knowledge creation (e.g., Murdock and Ganim, 1993; O´Quin and Derks, 1997; Mascitelli, 2000; Huizingh and Dechesne, 2013), the same does not apply to online-based forms of organizing innovation such as user communities or crowdsourcing. Source: www.in2communications.com. Instead, the increasing body of knowledge focusing on online innovation has tackled the general conditions under which firms should apply external knowledge from open crowds (Afuah and Tucci, 2012), the different types of online innovation initiatives (Nambisan et al., 2007, 2009; Füller et al., 2007; Keinz et al., 2012), the role of lead users (Bilgram et al., 2008; Mahr and Lievens, 2012) and the individual motivations to contribute knowledge (Lee and Cole, 2003; Bagozzi and Dholakia, 2006; Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006; Leimeister et al., 2009). Even if the quality of user ideas has been evaluated by some researchers (Hütter et al., 2011; Bayus, 2013), not much effort has been paid to the actual processes needed to create such output. Here humour comes into play. While communication and collaboration are seen to enhance online innovation in terms of output quality (Hütter et al., 2011), the micro-level communicative processes - such as the exchange of humour among users - have not gained much attention. Within the field of computer-mediated communication (CMC), there are some pioneering work to investigate the prevalence of humour in online communication (Baym, 1995). A wider stream of studies have been conducted around e-learning and online courses, where humour is seen to have a facilitating role (e.g., James, 2004; Palloff and Pratt, 2007). Surprisingly, these have not been transferred into studying innovation- focused online interactions. Yet there is a need to better understand and facilitate humour online, as technology-mediated communication environments require more time for establishing collaborative ties due to reduced opportunities for expressing social context cues (Kiesler et al., 1984) and represent less rich communication than face-to-face encounters (Daft and Lengel, 1984). Expressions of humour typically rely on inflection, 1 The author would like to thank Bettina von Stamm for her insightful presentation “Why Laughter is Good For Innovation” at ISPIM 2013, Helsinki – a perfect example of how humour supports the creation of new research ideas.
  3. 3. body gestures, and facial expressions (Kahn, 1989), whereas online interaction requires users to establish other forms. The issues of when and how humour is manifested in online innovation environments prevail, followed by how to best nurture and facilitate humour in them. The following research questions are set: Firstly, what are the sources of humour in online interactions from the innovation management perspective? Secondly, which are the types of humour that might spur the generation of innovative output online? Building on existing research on learning, creativity and innovation, together with practical illustrations, this study posits that humour facilitates creating innovative output also online, particularly when solving complex problems that require collaborative effort. 2 Humour and social groups 2.1 Defining humour “Each joke is a tiny revolution.” (George Orwell, 1968) There are many definitions of humour, as it has been the subject of academic inquiry for a long time (Romero and Pescosolido, 2008). Martineau (1972) defines humour in a very simplistic form as any communicative instance which is perceived as humorous. In practice, humour is a compilation of nonverbal and verbal communications that produce a positive cognitive or affective response from listeners (Crawford, 1994). In organizational settings, humour consists of “amusing communications that produce positive emotions and cognitions in the individual, group, or organization” (Romero and Cruthirds, 2006, p. 59). However, the use of humour does not always imply positive objectives. Humour also has control functions, where it is used as an expression of superiority feelings over others (Gruner, 1997; Lang and Lee, 2010). Control is expressed e.g. by means of irony, satire, sarcasm, caricature and parody. Controlling humour is a desire to win and engenders negative feelings, whereas liberating and stress-relieving humour operate the other way round (Lang and Lee, 2010). For the latter, Romero and Cruthirds (2006) use the terms affiliative humour and self-enhancing humour. Affiliative humour is a social lubricant that facilitates the development of relationships, lessens interpersonal tensions and creates a positive environment. It focuses on enhancing interaction e.g. by funny stories and inside jokes. Self-enhancing humour, in turn, is more individual-centered. It could be understood as a “humorous view of life” and as a mechanism of coping with stress. When used in organizations, the initiator's intention is to enhance his or her image relative to others. Both affiliative or self-enhancing humour promote openness to new ideas through relaxing people and making them less tempted to posit criticism. (Romero and Cruthirds, 2006) What is considered humorous, and where does one set the fine line between being funny and insulting others? According to Chiaro (1992), this always depends on linguistic, geographical, sociocultural and personal boundaries. Humour is a joint production of a certain social group or culture, whereas it may also spur other group-level outputs such as cohesion and quality of communication. Respectively, humour cannot be separated from the group of people in which it is used, or from the individuals who
  4. 4. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 4 participate (Baym, 1995). For instance, different professional groups, such as engineers (Collinson, 1988) or human service workers (Tracy et al., 2006) have their own specific humour styles. Studying the instances of humour in detail calls for participation, presence, and subtle understanding on the culture of that specific collective. 2.2 The importance of humour in learning and creativity “All learning should be fun.” (Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio, ISPIM Keynote 2013) The benefits of humour for social organizations seem various. Organization theorists have pinpointed the role of humour in forming the culture of successful organizations (Clouse and Spurgeon, 1995), increasing productivity (Avolio et al., 1999), enhancing leadership (Romero and Cruthirds, 2006), building group cohesion and better communication (Meyer, 1997) and increasing creativity by nurturing openness and flexibility to new ideas (Brotherton, 1996; Lang and Lee, 2010). Romero and Pescosolido (2008) list various mechanisms by which humour ensures good communication. It signals important or sensitive information, reduces resistance, increases the persuasiveness of a message, and has the potential of making the message more interesting and better understood without repetition. Humour increases both the quality and frequency of inter-group communication, preceding better performance. Group leaders may use humour to foster a more open environment and encourage all members to share their insight, which supports learning as a group. Further, Collinson (1988) found that humour forms the foundation of group culture and behaviour. In this vein, it also affects group performance. Humour communicates values, beliefs, expectations and other important elements that eventually constitute a specific group culture (Vinton, 1989; Holmes and Marra, 2002). It shows what is accepted; for instance, inappropriate behaviour could result in jokes and teasing. Another example could be team members all telling the same story about their leader, including the leader him- or herself. Such shared emotional interpretations have a strong and long- lasting effect on the viability and performance of the group. Humour also increases commitment to group goals by its positive influence on communication, by increasing psychological safety, and by its positive impact on member relationships (Romero and Pescosolido, 2008). Creativity scholars have long posited that humour and laughter are ways to spur creativity (e.g. Murdock and Ganim, 1993; O´Quin and Derks, 1997). Humour enables a shift in perspectives and taking a fresh look at a problem or phenomenon (Dixon et al., 1989), as well as questioning the well-established understandings and assumptions (Svebak, 1974). From learning point of view, humour has both direct and indirect effect. Indirectly, it provides a sense over uncontrollable events (Yovetich et al., 1990) by relieving stress and reducing anxiety e.g. in the form of jokes or funny stories. Humour also increases psychological safety, i.e. shared beliefs that it is safe to take interpersonal risks within the group (Edmondson, 1999; Romero and Pescosolido, 2008). Reduced stress and psychological safety, in turn, enhance learning. Humour also has a direct impact, as it guides individual attention to the issue at hand and helps people to recall those events later (Dixon et al., 1989).
  5. 5. As humour is seen to facilitate the processes of both learning and creativity, there seems to be a logical path from humour to new knowledge creation and innovation. Creative thinking is inspired by humour (O’Quin and Derks, 1997; Murdock and Ganim, 1993), and particularly by affiliative or self-enhancing humour (Romero and Cruthirds, 2006). They promote openness to new ideas through relaxing people and making them less tempted to posit criticism. 3 Humour and CMC Based on the above, creative problem solving clearly benefits from a social environment where humour flourishes. This is important to understand online, where individual participants do not necessarily know each other and may engage in risk-taking positions from the very beginning when intending to share their knowledge, expertise, product ideas or new designs. On collective level, a focal challenge is how to support mutual engagement in solving problems and suggesting new solutions: a dozen or thousand pairs of eyes simply see more than one user’s one pair. As pointed out earlier, studies on humour and CMC have typically focused in interest-based communities or e-learning. Investigating a soap-opera fan culture online, Baym (1995) noted how humour was a means to negotiate what it means to be a member of such community and culture, while it also encouraged continued involvement. Humour was perceived as a joint production of the online collective, which in turn enhanced group cohesion and identity. Baym (1995) concludes humour to be a highly effective mechanism for online groups to raise solidarity, as it relies upon shared meanings and depends upon shared interpretations. Group-specific meanings become central objects around which the group can define itself. Social meanings are created primarily through discourse practices, pinpointing the importance of ongoing conversation among users. Also Barab et al. (2001) points out how online learners built common meanings by sharing their personal experiences as a group. In contrast, computer-mediated environments are traditionally seen to reduce interactions to more simplistic exchange with less social cues (Kiesler et al., 1984; Kock, 2005). According to Baym (1995), mechanisms of ‘framing performance, and creating self-presentation, group solidarity and group identity are more problematic than they are in non-mediated situations’. James (2004) points out how humour online usually takes the form of written comments, as in Baym's study on online newsgroups. It is also more likely that humour is individual-centered, i.e. posting what a community member or user considers funny. Collective humour is definitely not absent but it is assumed to take more time and effort to be established online, similarly than other social-community characteristics such as shared identity, language, meanings, and social relationships (Baym, 1995; Walther, 1994). Today we have a wider set of means to communicate with each other online, e.g. using social networking sites that support sharing text, photos, audio and video. Respectively, the exchanges of humour are no longer limited to text only. Social media provides tools for open and transparent exchange among a wide population of users (Jussila et al., 2012). The issue of how “social” is social media eventually remains beyond the scope of this study, but it is important to note that humour is a basic element
  6. 6. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 6 of human interaction (Romero and Cruthirds, 2006), which implies its presence in any environment where people interact, communicate and share information with each other. This is also the key premise of social media. To conclude, humour is by no means non-existent or less important online than offline. It helps to create a friendly social context despite the possible impersonal elements of the selected communication media, and has a focal role in building group cohesion and solidarity (Baym, 1995). Humour reduces social distance (Romero and Pescosolido, 2008), potentially making it a central apparatus for CMC-based groups to accomplish their tasks. In the broad landscape of competing online platforms, social media services and user communities, humour may not only support member attachment to certain groups, but also support members in negotiating and experimenting around the task in question, thus spurring innovation-related outcomes of higher quality. Next we will turn into investigating the sources and types of online humour in more detail. 4 Expressions of humour in online innovation environments 4.1 Sources of online humour: distinguishing between professional groups, open communities and task-forces In section 2, the instances of humour among specific professional groups were discussed, as in the case of engineers or human service workers (Collinson, 1988; Tracy et al., 2006). As noted by CMC theorists, such instances are not easily transferred to online settings – unless a professional online community with members from that particular group exists (on professional online communities, see e.g. Ardichvili et al., 2003; Wasko and Faraj, 2005). This is an important distinction to make. Offline-originated communities extend their communicative and behavioral patterns to online environments (Blanchard and Horan, 1998); when there is a set of existing social practices, also the expressions of humour online are much more straightforward to outline. This allows us to formulate the first proposition. Proposition 1: When online innovation initiative is built around an existing professional group, their specific humour style is transferred to online interactions. However, such setting only covers a small proportion of innovation initiatives. When membership is open to anyone interested in the group's topic or purpose, online innovation platforms rather become “meltpots” of different cultural, professional, geographic and socio-economic statuses. This makes the shared view of appropriate humour less probable. There are basically two options for such an online-originated initiative, forming a community or setting up an one-time task-force (see also Kosonen and Henttonen, 2014). Baym (1995) found out that online-originated groups established solidarity – and expressed collective humour – using two main mechanisms: by making references to previous group discourse, and by making references to common knowledge. Continued
  7. 7. interaction may result in a focused online community that develops shared meanings and objectives (Chiu et al., 2006). Therefore, we may suggest the second proposition. Proposition 2: When online innovation initiative takes the form of an organized community, humour derives from group conversation and previous interactions specific for that community. On the other hand, the online innovation environment may remain a platform where people occassionally come and go based on their own interests, but with no “social glue” and shared practices that would hold the group together. Such setting is typical for online innovation contests and crowdsourcing initiatives built around a specific task (Afuah and Tucci, 2012; Hütter et al., 2011). To be able to engage in ideation, users need to have some background knowledge on the task in question (Jeppesen and Lakhani, 2010), which, in terms of Baym (1995), would represent the common denominator for participants. This allows us to formulate the third proposition. Proposition 3: When online innovation initiative takes the form of an one-time contest or task targeted at a large crowd, humour derives from common knowledge users share, such as general product features or stereotypical characteristics of product users. Finally, it should be underlined how some users may consider online ideation as fun and pleasant itself (see also Jeppesen and Frederiksen, 2006; Brabham, 2010). Simply engaging in problem-solving tasks could be a means to relieve stress. This is in line with studies describing flow and immersion experiences among members of online communities (Koh and Kim, 2003). It is noteworthy that these sources of online humour are not mutually exclusive. For instance, when there are professionals organized as an online community, their online discussions concern both the professional stereotypes (e.g., male engineers making Dilbert-style of fun about their poor success among women and sharing funny pictures or comics on this topic) and the past events within the community (e.g., memories from annual offline meeting or making fun of a troll that was kicked off from the community). In contrast, consider a situation where people from a certain industry gather together online to share their development ideas. There is no single profession or organization but many different ones; neither does the group act as an ongoing community, but users may share their own idea whenever they want to do so and remain passive for a long time. In addition, most users only post once. In this case, humour would either concern the common knowledge related to that specific industry (common knowledge scenario) or more likely would cease to exist, as there are less shared meanings upon which to build exchanges of humour. Most importantly, its role is less accentuated in achieving the group's core purpose: posting and collecting ideas to the online platform. This brings us to another important aspect related to humour, i.e. the nature of the innovation problem and knowledge required to solve it. For easier tasks that require lower levels of user collaboration, online groups may outperform simply by focusing on completing the task only (Hollingshead et al., 1993), as it was the case in the above example. Here too much social orientation (i.e. exchanges of humour) could even deteriorate performance, as members are too focused on ”having a great time” and not on the actual problem at hand. However, the more complex and co-creative the problem
  8. 8. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 8 setting becomes, the more the group may benefit from incorporating social orientation and collaborative exchange patterns, including humour. This allows us to formulate the fourth proposition. Proposition 4: Humour is particularly valuable for solving complex problems that require collective effort and iteration online, whereas it has lower value for simple tasks. 4.2 Types of humour In its simplest form, humour online is sharing funny content with other users. Joking is typically self-enhancing: you share something you consider humorous, simply for humour's sake and in order to build a positive image. In a similar vein, Dynel (2009) distinguishes between 1) jokes and 2) conversational humour that originates in interpersonal interaction. Joking-type of humour could have particular value in relieving stress and guiding one’s mind to other issues than the task at hand (Lang and Lee, 2010), being a sort of relief to creative work. Joking is intuitive to online settings where a piece of information is easily transferred to large masses of users; in this sense, it is individually driven but, at the same time, collectively oriented. Whereas Dynel (2009) refers to verbal humour only, it should be noted that joking may involve other types of content as well, such as videos, comics, pictures or photos - either original or manipulated ones. The second example concerns personal details. How do people usually build their online profiles? For professional purposes or to appear as knowledgeable hobbyists in ideation and design, they typically use an official photo, name and affiliation. Yet, for some users, it is clearly visible that they aim at making themselves to look fun or silly. Even if there is always an opportunity to end up in a public list of profile fails, another side of the coin is in lowering the barriers to raise discussion, exchange ideas, and get in touch with. This could be labelled as humanizing type of humour. By putting themselves at risk, the participants may increase the psychological safety (Romero and Pescosolido, 2008) of others. Dispersed online groups need to create continuity to outperform (Hollingshead et al., 1993); for such groups, humanizing is one means to provide users with feelings of a safe atmosphere to learn and play: “Hey, these are human beings sharing their thoughts here, not nicknames or robots.” Thirdly, in innovation-related tasks the online group may also make fun of what it has produced or is able to produce. In this vein, the participants may engage in perspective- taking and challenge both themselves and each other to see the issue from different viewpoint. For instance, when users were working on a task of how to improve babyfeeding products, it resulted in a provocative posting with a funny design involving teleportation options for the mother. This type of humour could be labelled as output- centered, as it derives from the desired outcome or possible solution. Its core element is questioning and challenging the mental boundaries of the problem-solvers by means of humour. Again, there is a fine line between being depressive and encouraging others to “take another look” at the problem at hand: “You're kidding, is that the best you can come up with?” Another example is from an online group ideating how they could benefit from social media tools to share professional knowledge and advance learning. Hereby, one user
  9. 9. raised up frustration over how their core organization would eventually support effective social-media use and whether they even have the necessary skills and knowledge. He posted a funny picture which is widespread online and which he considered to match the current topic. Source: www.blackfootstudios.com Whereas the posting as such could be seen as a manifestation of joking-type of humour, there was an additional ingredient in it: the photo induced the group to continue sharing similar experiences. From the initial exchange, the discussion moved on to how the other participants had lowered the barriers for social-media use in their organizations. By representing the current state in the light of rather cynical humour, the original contributor turned the focus into the desired output and encouraged the group to ideate how learning and change could eventually take place, potentially resulting in more vivid exchange of ideas than simply by asking others to solve the problem. Fourthly, a type of humour in online innovation environments is related to the situational nature of the task. For instance, when one user unintentionally made a spelling error in his original posting containing a development idea, another user pointed out how one letter fully changed the meaning practically into its opposite, which spurred laughter and induced others to take part in the discussion making fun of turning the idea upside down. Another example came from inventing new emoticons that could be applied in the forum, slightly differing from the well-known and well-established ones, and including humorous aspects specific to that online group. Drawing upon Dynel's (2009) categorization, this type of humour could be labeled conversational. It originates from community interactions, being highly contextual, unpredictable and spontaneous by nature. It is not easily understood by people outside that specific group. Conversational humour could have value regarding both its affiliative/liberating and stress-relieving characters (Lang and Lee, 2010), although it could also turn into aggressive or depressive type depending on how other users react e.g. to communicative “mistakes”.
  10. 10. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 10 Finally, a type of online humour is built around reflecting to shared history, events, and identity. This could be coined as storytelling. An example is from an online group discussing around the most memorable “funny moments” and shared events over the years (see also Baym, 1995). Another instance of storytelling humour is the users on a communication-technology oriented forum, who made fun of the stereotypical image of themselves as technology-savvy product ideators: “OMG, I still haven't got anything better to do than hang here :)”. Such interactions represent both self-irony and deliberating humour in the sense they make the group better aware of its own core strengths and cognitive limits. Humorous exchanges also concern the shared professional identity, as in the case of “What people think I do / What I really do” meme, which spread organically and found its way to online forums across different professions. The example below concerns scientists and the related stereotypes, but many other ones can be found. Source: remediated.wordpress.com Overall, these different forms of storytelling humour support the group in re-creating its own history and shared meaning system, thus increasing group cohesion and potentially enhancing collective problem-solving. Table 1 summarizes the identified types of humour online.
  11. 11. Table 1 Types of humour in online innovation environments Type Typical content Value Nature Joking Posting funny pics, videos or stories Relieving stress, re- targeting attention Individual and collective Humanizing Creating non-official profiles Lowering barriers to ideate, inspiring creativity Individual Output-centered Conversational Storytelling Impossible designs, posting “mad ideas” Spontaneous conversation, focus on its actual content Making fun of shared background, events and history; professional or user stereotypes Challenging others to see the issue from different viewpoint, inspiring creativity Affilitiative/liberating, relieving stress Affiliative/liberating, increasing group cohesion and belongingness Individual and collective Collective Collective 5 Discussion and conclusions In this paper, four potential sources for online-innovators' humour were identified, each typical for different open innovation initiatives as suggested in the first three propositions:  shared professional group membership  community conversation and previous interactions  common knowledge, such as product features or user stereotypes  ideating and innovating as such. It was also pointed out humour is particularly valuable for solving complex problems that require collective effort and iteration, whereas it has lower value for simple tasks. To gain the most valuable output, the group should not to merely engage in humorous exchanges but to find an optimal balance between task orientation and social orientation. Finally, five types of humour were identified: joking, humanizing, output-centered, conversational, and storytelling. Each type serves its own core purpose; whereas humanizing lowers the barrier to contribute, conversational humour serves as a collective stress-relief and storytelling enhances group cohesion (Baym, 1995; Romero and Cruthirds, 2006; Lang and Lee, 2010). The study has various implications for building and managing online innovation environments. Above all, IM scholars and practitioners need to become aware of the
  12. 12. This paper was presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference – Innovation for Sustainable Economy & Society, Dublin, Ireland on 8-11 June 2014. The publication is available to ISPIM members at www.ispim.org. 12 importance of humorous exchanges online. They also need to concern community design issues that could advance idea-spurring humour. For instance, the sites should allow members enough creative freedom in building a personal profile. A worst-case scenario could be using no profile pictures and showing only the affiliation publicly. Hard facts are naturally informative and for many online innovation initiatives fair enough, but they remain less inducive to humanizing-type of humour. The benefits of humanizing seem twofold: firstly, it lowers the barrier for newcomers to entry and share their ideas, and secondly, it helps to create a positive atmosphere to the larger collective by demonstrating that users are willing to make fun on themselves and avoid sticking to the “ivory towers” of professionalism and expertise. To advance socialization in the form of humour, online innovation environments need to encourage rich conversations (Baym, 1995), while supporting visual effects, linkages and embedding content from other sites and social-media services. Inevitably, as the examples given also demonstrate, only a part of humorous exchanges take place in that specific online innovation platform (humanizing and conversational humour being the only exceptions) and most of it relies on external content and resources. Therefore, their use in ideation and discussion should be made as easy as possible. Humour cannot be separated from existing social networks online or offline; rather the issue is how to best integrate them with open innovation initiatives. From community-management viewpoint, the key lesson is in feeding funny content and not being overly serious. Information is useful but it does not facilitate group creativity in the same vein than humorous postings. This is simple but often neglected view of supporting online sociability. As a result, the collective problem-solving potential of online innovators may become compromised. From the very beginning managers need to consider the potential sources of online humour for each particular setting: is it the shared identity, common product knowledge, or community-level exchanges among users? Key individuals capable of catalyzing humorous exchanges also have to be identified by community managers and group leaders. Regarding the limitations of the study, it is important to note its exploratory nature. For instance, the examples used to illustrate the instances of humour online were not drawn upon a systematically collected dataset but derived from various online innovation platforms and forums. Yet they provided valuable insight, combined with the findings from existing research on creativity, learning and innovation in organizations. In further research, the classification regarding the types of humour needs to be validated and complemented using a wide set of empirical data. Based on the current study, it is also unclear how the different types of humour are linked to 1) professional groups, 2) online communities and 3) one-time task-forces, and how common each type of humour is within them. The relationship between humour and online innovativeness should be investigated empirically using both qualitative and quantitative data. This implies a need to develop measures for evaluating the impact of humour on innovation performance online, which was only intuitively assumed here based on existing research from traditional organizations and CMC. Further research should also tackle the dark side of online humour: aggressive or depressive exchanges and their impact on group performance. Humour provides many promising avenues for the future endeavours of community managers willing to nurture collective creativity online.
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