On the power of ethics: How value-based thinking fosters creative and sustainable IT innovation

Kathrin Bednar, Sarah Spiekermann

Publication: Working/Discussion PaperWU Working Paper

Abstract

The digital transformation of the economy pressures companies to come up with convincing value propositions for investors and customers and to defend a competitive position in an environment of start-ups. While the need for creativity abounds in this environment, innovation needs to accommodate not only hyped technical advancements, but also higher human needs and values. In a two-study mixed-method research project covering three IT case studies––a digital toy, a food-delivery app and a telemedicine system––we show that the product planning approach from value-based engineering, which is inspired by utilitarianism, virtue ethics, and deontology, significantly increases creative output and ethical foresight, especially when compared to traditional product roadmapping practices. In the value-based approach participants considered a diverse set of stakeholders and took potential adverse effects into account, while at the same time acknowledging a broad range of value classes including individual and social values as well as unique value ideas. While instrumental values with a technical and economic focus (e.g. IT security or efficiency) dominated ideas from the traditional product roadmapping approach, participants acknowledged higher principles with intrinsic value (e.g. freedom or personal growth) when employing value-based product planning. This paper not only presents results on the creative power that can be unleashed by taking different ethical perspectives in a value-based approach, but also includes an inventory of values with detailed descriptions and classifications. With this, we hope to inspire future value-oriented research and innovation projects and conclude with implications for both value-oriented frameworks and traditional innovation practices.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationVienna
PublisherInstitute for Information Systems and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020

Publication series

NameWorking Papers / Institute for IS & Society

WU Working Paper Series

  • Working Papers / Institute for IS & Society

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