Tech-savviness may make you seem like a leader

Submitted by Anna Rzewnicki on Friday Apr 25, 2014.

Are you wondering whether to invest in the Google Glass or another technology breakthrough? If you’re in business and want to be perceived as a leader, research from NC State University and Vanderbilt University suggests you might as well go for it.

“Familiarity with and usage of new high-tech products appears to be a common manifestation of innovative behavior,” write Stacy Wood of the Poole College of Management at NC State and Steve Hoeffler of the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt. “Those who are tech savvy are also perceived as authoritative on other subjects and as leaders.”

Photo of Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing, NC State Poole CollegeWood is Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing at Poole College and Hoeffler is associate professor of marketing at the Owen Graduate School. Together they authored the paper, “Looking Innovative: Exploring the Role of Impression Management in High-Tech Product Adoption and Use,” published by The Journal of Product Innovation Management.

For one part of the study, interviews were taped using actors who were categorized by their appearance and other factors.

“We taped them once where they took down a note using an old-fashioned calendar, then did another one where they whipped out an electronic calendar and did it that way,” Hoeffler said.

When test subjects viewed the interviews, they overwhelmingly viewed the actors using the electronic calendars as being more authoritative.

Another part of the study used resumes which were all similar except for hobbies, which were varied to signal whether the subjects were high tech or not. Again, the high-tech candidates came out ahead.

In the trials, women who used technological gadgets benefited more than their male counterparts.

“This finding runs counter to the backlash effect typically found in impression management research in business settings,” Wood and Hoeffler. “Female job evaluations typically suffer after engaging in the same self-promoting impression management strategies that benefit their male counterparts.”

Actually being able to operate the devices really isn’t all that important, provided you know enough to look reasonably competent, Hoeffler said. “Just possession is 90 percent of the game,” he said. “And there are maybe 10 percent of situations where you have to display the ability to use it.”

Photo: Stacy Wood, Langdon Distinguished Professor of Marketing, NC State Poole College.

Abstract:

Looking Innovative: Exploring the Role of Impression Management in High-Tech Product Adoption and Use,” published by The Journal of Product Innovation Management. November 14, 2013

Although consumer adoption of high-tech innovations is certainly influenced by the product’s functional benefits, can the use of a new product confer social benefits as well? Specifically, can the mere use of an innovative product convey the impression that the user is an innovative person? Impression management (IM) is a well-established phenomenon in social psychology that refers to the human tendency to monitor, consciously or unconsciously, the efficacy of his or her communication of self to others. This research explores the role that IM motivations, or “looking innovative,” play in consumers’ use of new high-tech products, especially in the workplace—an environment in which innovativeness is clearly valued by employers and, thus, individuals have strong motivations to convey innovativeness as a personal characteristic. Data from both ethnographic and experimental methods demonstrate that (1) the use of new high-tech products can be a surprisingly effective social signal of one’s “tech savvy” and personal innovativeness; (2) this impression even significantly increases positive evaluations of secondary traits such as leadership and professional success; and (3) this effect differs by gender. Intriguingly, stronger benefits accrue for women than for men—a finding that runs counter to the backlash effect typically found in IM research in business settings (i.e., female job evaluations typically suffer after engaging in the same self-promoting IM strategies that benefit their male counterparts). Further, the data show that, even for professional recruiters, a momentary observation of a job candidate using a new high-tech product versus a low-tech equivalent significantly increases the candidate’s evaluation and likelihood of being hired.

 


 

 

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