Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

The Temporal Dimension of Electronic Meetings: A Study of Synchronous and Asynchronous Idea Generation

Academic journal article Journal of International Technology and Information Management

The Temporal Dimension of Electronic Meetings: A Study of Synchronous and Asynchronous Idea Generation

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Some have estimated that managers spend over 60% of their working hours participating in meetings (Tobia & Becker, 1990), and the purpose of these sessions is often accomplished only 50% of the time (LaPlante, 1993). Electronic meeting systems (EMS), otherwise known as group support systems (GSS), can improve the productivity of many meetings involving large groups sharing information (Travica, 2005), and studies have shown that meeting time can be reduced up to 56% of (Grohowski, et al., 1990) and overall project time by up to 71% (Martz, et al., 1992).

However, prior GSS research has been conducted mostly on synchronous, face-to-face groups, and other meeting environments have been generally overlooked (Baltes et al., 2002). For example, from 1982 to 1996, 60% of 164 studies were conducted using a face-to-face decision room environment, while less than 20% focused on geographically-dispersed, asynchronous meetings (Fjermestad & Hiltz, 1997). In addition, globalization has increased the need for meetings that can span time-zones and geographic distance (Bandow, 2001; Gibson, et al., 2008). Distributed, asynchronous electronic meetings allow participants to share information and make decisions irrespective of physical and time barriers (Berge, 1997; Hung et al., 2008; Kraut, 1994), and organizations could be wasting huge amounts of money on travel and accommodations for face-to-face meetings that could be conducted asynchronously. (Dowling & St. Louis, 2000).

The purpose of this study is to investigate the possible differences between synchronous and asynchronous meetings. First, we discuss prior research on non-synchronous electronic environments and then present the results of an experiment comparing the two settings. Results show that asynchronous meetings might be able to replace more typical decision-room discussions in many situations.

SYNCHRONOUS AND ASYNCHRONOUS COMPARISON STUDIES

In a study comparing traditional, face-to-face, oral with asynchronous, electronic groups (Ocker, et al., 1996), the latter reported less social pressure and greater participation equality. With less social pressure and more participation equality, asynchronous participants were able to produce more total comments and more quality comments. Further, asynchronous technologies can reduce the need for an individual to be "sociable" in order to meet and correspond in a meaningful way with other users, and this can increase productivity (Pendergast & Hayne, 1999). Asynchronous, electronic groups can also provide a higher quality of resolution (Benbunan-Fich & Hiltz, 1999) and present a more complete summary report of the meeting (Benbunan-Fich et al., 2002). However, another study (Warkentin et al., 2007) found that asynchronous groups did not outperform face-to-face teams under otherwise comparable circumstances, and face-to-face groups reported higher levels of satisfaction.

Comparisons between synchronous and asynchronous electronic meetings have also had conflicting results. One study (Shirani, et al., 1999) found that asynchronous groups performed a deeper problem analysis, but the synchronous participants generated more comments. Asynchronous groups might make decisions more slowly (Gallupe & McKeen, 1990), but in many other respects (e.g., cohesiveness, participation, and process satisfaction), no differences were found (Burke & Chidambaram, 1995; Smith & Vanecek, 1990; Watson, et al., 1988). However, it is not clear which environment provides more ideas, greater member satisfaction, or better final decisions (Lowry, 2002; Ngwenya & Keim, 2001; Ocker & Morand, 2002; Sedbrook, 2010; Tung & 1998).

THEORETICAL MODEL AND HYPOTHESES

Prior research has had some conflicting results, and a wide variety of technologies were used (e.g., electronic mail, bulletin boards, and chat rooms) for the asynchronous treatment. …

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