The Influence of Social Media Properties on Software Developers’ Creativity
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Due to the uncertain nature of software development and the unique problems that software developers encounter in each project, the importance of software developers’ creativity is increasingly being recognised in practice. Creativity is defined as the development of novel, useful and actionable ideas and solutions by individuals. The importance of software developers’ creativity, the significance of knowledge about creativity and the potential value of social media in supporting software developers’ knowledge acquisition all point to the importance of studying the relationship among social media platforms, knowledge acquisition and software developers’ creativity. Thus, this study aims to examine the relationship between social media properties and software developers’ creativity. In particular, this study evaluated the influence of two social media properties – i.e., perceptions of visibility of knowledge and association – on two aspects of software developers’ creativity – i.e., domain-relevant knowledge and divergent thinking. The relationship between social media properties and software developers’ creativity is explained through two cognitive mechanisms: the internal individual cognitive mechanism and the external collaborative cognitive mechanism. With this goal in mind, in the absence of a validated instrument to measure perceived visibility of knowledge in social media, a new instrument was developed. To do so, a 10-step procedure was followed. Seven first-order constructs (broadness, up-to-datedness, diversity, timeliness, easiness, trustworthiness and appropriateness) were conceptualised and used to reflect perceived visibility of knowledge. The Covariance-Based Structural Equations Modelling (CB-SEM) method was used to analyse four datasets to develop and test the scales. The nomological validity of the instrument was established by examining its relationship with an outcome variable (i.e., the internal individual cognitive mechanism) and its association with a correlate variable (i.e., the perceived quality of content). Overall, the results indicated that the newly developed instrument of perceived visibility of knowledge was a good predictor of the outcome variable and had a high correlation with the correlate variable. Next, a survey with the newly developed items for perceived visibility of knowledge and adapted items for other constructs in the research model was designed to test the conceptual model and assess its fit to the collected data through structural equation modelling. Data was collected from software developers based in New Zealand to empirically validate the research model using the CB-SEM method. The analysis results revealed that software developers’ perceived social media properties positively influence their internal individual cognitive mechanism and external collaborative cognitive mechanism taking place in social media. In addition, software developers’ cognitive mechanisms in social media positively influence their creativity components, namely domain-relevant knowledge and divergent thinking. This study has theoretical and practical contributions. This research contributes to theory by developing a new instrument to measure perceived visibility of knowledge that future research can use. Also, this study contributes to the creativity literature as it provides a theoretical explanation supported by empirical evidence of the influence of social media use on software developers’ creativity through the support of internal individual and external collaborative cognitive mechanisms. The insights from this research offer practical implications for firms and individuals. Firms can use the newly developed instrument of perceived visibility of knowledge in relation to social media properties to evaluate their employees’ perceptions of visibility of knowledge provided by their existing knowledge management systems. The insights from this research also contribute to practice by providing software developers’ team managers with a better understanding of how software developers’ perceptions of social media properties can affect their cognitive mechanism and creativity.