Product Meaning in Digital Product Innovation

Office of Alumni and External Relations    2021-09-26

Subject: Product Meaning in Digital Product Innovation

Guest: Gongtai Wang,Postdoctoral Researcher,UQ Business School

Host: Wei Xuan, Assistant Professor, Antai

Time: Thursday, Sep 20, 2021,  14:00-15:30

Venue: Tecent Meeting (Please send email to for meeting number and password)


Digital product innovation involves a meaning-making process. Designers of digital innovations often challenge established product meanings as they digitize physical products, such as cars, toothbrushes, and water bottles. A significant problem for product designers, however, is striking the right balance between the newness and comprehensibility of product meanings. Failure to do so may result in a digital product innovation that is too conventional or difficult to relate to or understand. Yet, the extant digital product innovation literature pays little, if any, attention to product meaning. To fill this void, this study examines a digital product innovation project in which product designers created a digital theater with product meanings beyond those of the traditional movie theater. Our theory, grounded in in-depth data collection and analysis, explains how product designers attribute meanings to their products in the process of digital innovation by enacting two meaning-making loops: a reinforcing loop that makes the product meaning comprehensible, and a differentiating loop that captures emerging product meanings. The two loops come together via meaning sedimentation, through which a new core product meaning is created. Our study contributes to the digital product innovation literature by shedding light on the essential role of meaning-making in innovation and offers an explanatory process theory.


Gongtai is a Postdoctoral Researcher at UQ Business School in Australia. He earned his PhD at Warwick Business School in the United Kingdom. Before his PhD, he completed a Master of System Engineering in Japan and a Bachelor of Management in China. He is passionate about research at the juncture between digital product innovation and design thinking, specifically the fundamental rethink and strategic redesign of traditional products/services and business models with emerging digital technologies such as IoT, mixed reality, AI, and blockchain. His research has been accepted by MIS Quarterly and Journal of Product Innovation Management and published in proceedings of flagship IS conferences. He has two ICIS papers awarded Best Short Paper in the conference and Best Short Paper in track, and an ECIS paper nominated for Best Paper Award in the conference. He is also passionate about and has experience of teaching courses on digital technology-driven business innovation, and research methods. He facilitated the development of the Master of Digital Health and is currently engaged in the initiation of a new course on Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UQ Business School. Prior to his academic career, he worked as a system engineer in the IT industry.

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