Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

User responses to information systems change: The place of negative capability

Decou, Judith Anne

User responses to information systems change: The place of negative capability Thumbnail


Judith Anne Decou


This study explores the place of the notion of negative capability in user responses to information systems change. Much has been written about information systems change, significantly less about negative capability, and there has been no research, at all, that links the two.
User responses to the implementation of new IT have been researched since the advent of computers in organizations. Most of the existing research, however, examines situations where use is optional. This study argues that IT use is now often mandatory in most forms of organization – whether public, private or charitable. This has significant implications not only for people working in organizations that implement new IT but also for the research of such events.
Negative capability has, over the past several years, started to appear in the management literature as a capacity that is uncovered when people hold an open mind during experiences of uncertainty and anxiety and resist the urge to grasp impatiently for any solution. This is sometimes contrasted with positive capabilities, which are based on a particular skill or knowledge base. Without the practice of negative capability, we observe people engaging in ‘dispersal’. This is the tendency under conditions of uncertainty to lose focus on the task and to disperse into intellectual, emotional and/or behavioural responses that do not serve the intended purpose.
This paper adds to the body of knowledge by expanding our understanding of the notion of negative capability in responses to mandatory use of new IT with field studies.
The research consists of two cases. The first case involves the experiences of paramedics when they convert from paper- to electronic-based reporting. The second case explores the implementation of an ERP system in a manufacturing organization.
This research contributes to the body of knowledge in three ways. It is the first time that negative capability has been considered in the context of information systems/information technology change. It is novel in that it considers the emergence of negative capability after the demonstration of dispersal behaviours and it identifies instances in which such dispersal behaviours may be beneficial. A significant outcome is the development of a new analytical framework for researching and understanding negative capability during organizational change, exploring the capacity to practice negative capability at three organizational levels: organizational, relational and personal.


Decou, J. A. User responses to information systems change: The place of negative capability. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date Jun 6, 2019
Keywords information systems, negative capability
Public URL
Award Date Oct 1, 2014


Downloadable Citations