How do a company’s information
inﬂuence its ability to innovate?
Steven R. Gordon
Babson College, Babson Park, Massachusetts, USA, and
College of Business Administration, University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe research that explores how an organization’s
information technology (IT) competences inﬂuence its ability to innovate.
Design/methodology/approach – This paper draws on prior research to describe stages of the
innovation process and to identify several IT competences that have been linked to innovation success.
Then, examining innovation at three case study sites, it demonstrates how IT competences can
inﬂuence the success of innovation at various stages of the innovation process.
Findings – The paper ﬁnds that IT competences in information and knowledge management, project
management, collaboration and communication, and business involvement are likely to improve an
organization’s ability to innovate.
Research limitations/implications – The research in this paper is exploratory. The small number
of cases limits one’s ability to claim that the IT competences one has identiﬁed always affect
Practical implications – The paper shows that organizations that want to be innovative should
cultivate the identiﬁed IT competences.
Originality/value – For researchers, the paper proposes a model relating an organization’s ability to
innovate to its IT competences. For managers, it identiﬁes it competences that should be cultivated to
support the process of innovation.
Keywords Competences, Resources, Innovation, Knowledge management, Research
Paper type Research paper
Information technology (IT) has been touted as providing many beneﬁts to companies
that use it well. For example, studies show that IT may increase product quality
(Thatcher and Pingry, 2004), improve workﬂow (Buhler and Vidal, 2005), enhance a
company’s ﬂexibility to respond to customer needs (Gunasekaran and Ngai, 2004), and
improve communication between a company and its customers and suppliers (Fiala,
2005). One likely but rarely mentioned beneﬁt of IT is its role in keeping companies
innovative. Despite the incorporation of IT components into many innovative products
and services, the role of IT in helping companies become and stay innovative remains
unclear. On the one hand, IT could encourage and support innovation by means such
as improving innovators’ ability to collaborate with one another and search for
relevant information and knowledge. On the other hand, IT and information systems
could stiﬂe creativity and innovation by standardizing, automating, and
institutionalizing existing processes and workﬂow. Companies need to understand
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Journal of Enterprise Information
Vol. 20 No. 3, 2007
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited