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Volume 17 / Issue 10

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DOI:   10.3217/jucs-017-10-1430


Assessing the Impact of Visual Facilitation on Inter-Organizational Collaboration: An Experimental Study

Alice Comi (University of Lugano, Switzerland)

Martin J. Eppler (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland)

Abstract: As suggested by several scholars, inter-organizational collaboration is an important vehicle for innovation, but working across organizational boundaries entails great complexity. In this paper, we argue that visual facilitation may act as a catalyst of inter-organizational teamwork, leading to increased knowledge sharing quality (H1), team performance (H2) and satisfaction (H3). On the other hand, we suggest that the aesthetic beauty of visual representations may exert a manipulatory effect, inducing inter-organizational actors to overestimate the collaboration value potential (H4). We adopt an experimental design (N=145 participants) in order to assess the advantages and disadvantages of visual facilitation in inter-organizational teamwork. In particular, we compare inter-organizational teams working with i) software-based visualization, ii) poster-based visualization, and iii) text-based facilitation (control condition). By comparing results across the two treatment conditions (software and poster), we disentangle the effects of visual facilitation and computer interactivity, therefore making a unique contribution to research on information visualization. The experiment findings show that software-supported teams outperform the control groups in terms of performance (H2), and exhibit greater satisfaction with the inter-organizational meetings (H3). We extend our experimental study by conducting focus groups with 17 experiment participants to gain an in-depth understanding of the users' experience with the different support systems. After discussing relevant implications for both researchers and practitioners, we point out the limitations of our study and suggest directions for future research.

Keywords: experimental research, focus groups, information visualization, inter-organizational collaboration, inter-organizational innovation, inter-organizational teamwork, visual facilitation, visual representations

Categories: H.4.3, H.5.3, J.4, L.2.3, M.0, M.2