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THE EFFECT OF NEGATIVE TIES ON THE INNOVATIVE CONSUMERS' CREATIVITY: AN EMPIRICAL STUDY OF NEW SERVICE IDEA GENERATION IN A SOCIAL NETWORK ENVIRONMENT Open Access

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This research bridges the gap existing in the marketing literature between new product/service development and the social networking phenomenon. Firms have an opportunity to empower their customers in an attempt to improve their market orientation, yet the debate in the marketing field is ongoing regarding which customer to involve and how. Following the lead-user theory (von Hippel 1988) the present research empirically tests the superiority of innovative "leading-edge" users versus ordinary users, with the assumption that leading-edge users are quasi-lead-users short of building a prototype or creating a new service. Recent advances in the lead-user theory (von Hippel 2002, 2005) posit that innovators, and potentially high leading-edge users, organize in communities or networks where they discuss, and/or create new products/services.We propose a quasi-experiment where a representative sample of hotel customers is invited to a service idea generation session taking place within an electronic network. The quasi-experimental design has two groups: leading-edge users (chosen via Bayesian Classifier method), and ordinary users. Each group receives two levels of treatment (negative message and expert identification). Using the balance theory and the attribution theory to explain the phenomenon, the study demonstrates that service firms should invite leading-edge users in a separate group because leading-edge users use negative messages not only to communicate their frustration with the current state of service, but as a source of motivation for their creativity. Ordinary users, on the other hand, will see negative messages as a threat, unless the leading-edge users are identified as experts, thus coercing the group to reject the leading-edge users' ideas in order to re-establish balance. Using current social network analysis, the research uncovers a positive "network effect" inherent to each group while controlling for other parameters. The results of the research have both theoretical and practical implications extending the findings to a link with data-mining and customer relationship management discussed in the text.

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