The concept of sustainability (i.e., meeting the needs of the present without depriving future generations of an ability to meet their needs) entails conscientious and pre-emptive innovation that creates balance among ecological resilience, economic prosperity, political justice, and cultural vibrancy [1
]. Citizens of emerging economies (e.g., China) often aspire to living standards of more developed nations [2
]. The combination of population increase and unmaintainable consumption levels presents challenges to sustainability [3
Sustainability has become a hallmark for innovation around the world. Open innovation with sustainability comes from collaborative creative ideas with a long-term time horizon. Beyond consumerism and the profit maximization business model, citizens and firms need to learn sustainable consumption behavior and business strategy. However, enduring attitudes or perceptions can be barriers to open innovation with sustainability. For instance, sustainability implies a time context (past-present-future). Citizens and firms often prefer immediate economic benefits to long-term sustainable benefits. Consumption of goods and services involves individual choices that often involve short-term self-interests rather than long-term sustainable common goals. The growth model with a short-term time horizon and individual interest is far removed from the sustainable innovation model with a long-term orientation and creative collaboration. Relevant research questions about preferences for creative collaboration and a long-term time orientation are important to understand the diffusion of open innovations with regards to sustainability. In addition, attitudes and perceptions toward sustainability and open innovation are likely to vary during different stages of innovation adoption. The question about who creates and adopts open innovations for sustainability in a timely and expeditious manner is important.
Creativity is linked to innovation, which creates value. Creativity refers to mental and social processes, driven by conscious or unconscious insight, that yield new ideas, concepts, and associations [4
]. Innovation is an outcome of the creative process, in which the ideas, concepts, and associations are applied to products, services, procedures, and processes that are desirable and viable within a specific context [4
]. Innovation can be applied in many different contexts such as the automotive industry, mobile phone industry, computer industry, and the fashion industry, where creative attitudes and ideas are essential.
The ability to create novel and appropriate things or to innovate (i.e., build on new ideas) is critical to business success. However, at the introduction and early acceptance stages of an innovative product’s life cycle, a vital influence is the behavior of consumer change agents
, that is, individuals who are willing to be among the first to purchase and use the new product. According to Roger’s adoption-diffusion model [5
], interpersonal communication from professional change agents
(individuals who influence clients’ innovation adoption decisions in a direction deemed desirable by a change agency, to others is an important means by which innovations diffuse. Rogers' model of consumer groups depicts the adoption of innovations over time. Consumers who adopt innovations at different times in the product’s lifestyle may differ in attributes such as creative attitudes or perceptions of time. For example, creative people are flexible, which enhances their ability to cope with change [6
]. Creative people are willing to take sensible risks, to tolerate ambiguity, and to persist in solving problems [7
]. These attributes may contribute to a willingness to adopt innovations earlier in the product lifecycle. Creative people are likely to adopt innovations earlier, whereas less creative people are likely to adopt innovations later. Furthermore, early adopters are likely to have a future time orientation compared with later adopters.
Time perceptions affect consumer choices about lifestyle and consumption [8
]. Time perception may interact with other variables influencing consumer behavior, such as attitudes [9
], emotions [10
], and innovativeness [11
]. Studying time orientations and creative attitudes is worthwhile in terms of understanding what contributes to favorable attitudes toward open innovation with sustainability. In addition, such relationships are likely to vary across countries and cultures. Different perspectives on time can predict consumer behaviors such as activity planning and materialism [12
] that may vary across countries. There are different cultural models of time that may affect consumer behavior [13
This study explores how the perception of time and creative attitudes vary from innovation adoption groups such as consumer change agents, early adopters, later adopters, and reluctant adopters. In addition, this study compares the relationships between innovation adoption groups and the perception of time, and creative attitudes in terms of Chinese and U.S. college students. More specifically, we use the context of fashion innovation to compare how U.S. and Chinese college students differ in time perception, creative attitudes, and adoption of innovations. There is no research that has examined the relationships among these variables. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to examine how earlier (vs. later) adopters of innovation differ in time perception and creative attitudes, comparing Chinese and US college students.
4. Empirical Results
Participants in this study were 209 US and 193 Chinese university students. There were 185 females and 215 males with a mean age of 21.13 (range 17–32) from a variety of majors (e.g., engineering, sports management, fashion, architecture, business). Ethnicity in the US sample was 38 (18.2%) African American, 11 (5.25%) Asian/Asian American, 144 (68.9%) Caucasian, 12 (5.74%) Hispanic/Latino, and 4 (2.0%) otherwise classified.
Cronbach’s alpha reliability was acceptable, ranging from 0.60 to 0.90 (see Table 1
). One sub-dimension of the Time Styles Scale was not reliable (time submissiveness) so it was not used in the analysis. Hypothesis 1 and 2 were revised to eliminate time submissiveness.
MANOVA was conducted with time-of-adoption groups (consumer change agents, early adopters, late adopters, reluctant adopters) and culture (China, US) as the independent variables. Dependent variables were seven sub-dimensions of time perception (economic time, non-organized time, past orientation, future orientation, time anxiety, time tenacity, and preference for quick return). MANOVA revealed significant effects for time-of-adoption groups [F
(8, 387) = 4.39, p
< 0.000] and for culture [F
(8, 385) = 20.79, p
< 0.000] on the dependent variables. ANOVA revealed significant effects for time-of-adoption group on three of the seven time variables: economic time, future orientation, and time anxiety (see Table 2
). Student-Newman-Keuls post hoc test (p
> 0.05) revealed that earlier adopters differed significantly from later adopters on economic time, future time orientation, and time anxiety. Earlier adopters scored higher on economic time and future time orientation, but later adopters scored higher on time anxiety.
Hypotheses: H1a–h: Earlier (vs. later) adopters of innovations will differ in time perceptions such as (a) economic time; (b) non-organized time; (c) orientation toward the past; (d) orientation toward the future; (e) time anxiety; (f) tenacity; (g) preference for quick return. H1a, H1d, and H1e were supported; H1b, H1c, H1f, and H1g were not supported.
ANOVA revealed significant effects of culture on five of the seven time variables: economic time, non-organized time, past orientation, future orientation, and time anxiety (see Table 3
). US participants (vs. Chinese) scored higher on economic time and future orientation. Chinese participants (vs. US) scored higher on non-organized time, past orientation, and time anxiety.
H2a–h: Chinese and U.S. participants will differ in perceptions of time such as (a) economic time; (b) non-organized time; (c) orientation toward the past; (d) orientation toward the future; (e) time anxiety; (f) tenacity; (g) preference for quick return. Hypotheses 2a, b, c, d, and e were supported.
MANOVA was conducted with time-of-adoption groups (consumer change agents, early adopters, late adopters, reluctant adopters) and culture (China, US) as the independent variables. Dependent variables were four creative attitudes (general creativity, creative capacity, creative collaboration, and creative risk-taking). MANOVA revealed significant effects for the time-of-adoption group [F(4, 391) = 4.32, p < 0.002] and for culture [F(4, 389) = 6.15, p < 0.000] on the dependent variables.
ANOVA revealed significant effects for the time-of-adoption group on all four creative attitude variables (see Table 4
). Student-Newman-Keuls post hoc test (p
> 0.05) revealed that earlier adopters differed significantly from later adopters on general creativity, creative capacity, creative collaboration, and creative risk-taking. Earlier adopters scored higher on these measures of creative attitudes than later adopters.
ANOVA revealed significant effects of culture on two of the four creative attitudes variables: creative capacity and creative collaboration (see Table 5
). US participants (vs. Chinese) scored lower on creative capacity and creative collaboration.
ANOVA was conducted to examine time-of-adoption between the two cultures. ANOVA revealed no significant effect for culture [F(1, 399) = 1.14, p < 0.286] on time-of-adoption: US participants (M = 14.736) and Chinese participants (14.249). Higher scores indicate earlier adoption. H5: Chinese and U.S. participants will differ in time-of-adoption of innovations. H5 was not supported.
A chi-square test of time-of-adoption groups was conducted to examine hypothesis six. The chi-square test was not significant (df = 3; Pearson Chi-Square = 1.033; p
< 0.793). Percentages were as follows: (a) consumer change agents US (n
= 41; 19.7%); Chinese (n
= 31; 16.1%); (b) early adopters US (n
= 68; 32.7%); Chinese (n
= 69; 35.8%); (c) late adopters US (n
= 60; 28.8%) Chinese (n
= 57; 29.5%); and (d) reluctant adopters US (n
= 39; 18.8%); Chinese (n
= 36; 18.7%).
The purpose of this study was to examine how earlier (vs. later) adopters of innovation differ in time perception and creative attitudes, comparing Chinese and US college students. Results indicated differences in time perception and creative attitudes among earlier (vs. later) adopters of innovation and between Chinese and US college students. Each hypothesis will be discussed separately.
Hypothesis one predicted that the time of adoption of innovations would be affected by time perceptions such as: (a) economic time; (b) non-organized time; (c) orientation toward the past; (d) orientation toward the future; (e) time anxiety; (f) tenacity; and (g) preference for quick return. Results showed that time-of-adoption groups differed in the following aspects of time perception: economic time, orientation toward the future, and time anxiety. Earlier adopters (vs. later adopters) had a stronger reaction to linearity and economic time, a stronger orientation toward the future, and were less anxious about time. Earlier adopters appear not to worry about spending time shopping or in conducting an information search or other activities associated with fashion (e.g., fashion shows, reading fashion magazines, etc.). The future orientation indicates that they are eager and willing to try new products and are comfortable with ambiguity or uncertainty. Economic time indicates priority of scheduling time for activities that are considered important consumer behaviors such as searching for information, shopping, purchasing, and post-purchase evaluation.
Hypothesis 2 predicted that Chinese and US participants would differ in perceptions of time such as: (a) economic time; (b) non-organized time; (c) orientation toward the past; (d) orientation toward the future; (e) time anxiety; (f) tenacity; and (g) preference for quick return. Results revealed that Chinese and US students differed in the following aspects of time perception: economic time, non-organized time, orientation toward the past, orientation toward the future, and time anxiety. Graham (1981) proposed different cultural models of time [13
] These results concurred with Graham’s proposal, that is, US students scored higher on economic time and orientation toward the future while Chinese students scored higher on non-organized time, orientation toward the past, and time anxiety.
Hypothesis three predicted that earlier (vs. later) adopters of innovations would differ in creative attitudes such as: (a) general creative attitudes; (b) creative capacity; (c) creative collaboration; (d) creative risk-taking. Time-of-adoption groups did differ in all four measures of creative attitudes: general creative attitudes; creative capacity; creative collaboration; and creative risk-taking. Earlier adopters (vs. later) scored higher on all aspects of creative attitudes. As noted in the literature review, earlier adopters of fashion display many attitudes related to creativity. Results are consistent with earlier research (e.g., [49
]) showing that earlier (vs. later) adopters were more innovative and expressed greater interest in sensation seeking and experience seeking. Earlier (vs. later) adopters had more positive attitudes toward change and risk [49
] and were more impulsiveness [54
Hypothesis four predicted that Chinese and U.S. participants would differ in creative attitudes such as: (a) general creative attitudes; (b) creative capacity; (c) creative collaboration; (d) creative risk-taking. Chinese (vs. U.S.) participants scored higher on creative capacity and creative collaboration but did not differ in general creative attitudes or creative risk-taking. Differences in creative collaboration between two groups may indicate that those in collectivist cultures such as China are more likely to cooperate with others or work together as group members than those in individualist cultures. Results of the current study contrast with those of Zha et al. [68
], who found that American students (vs. Chinese) scored higher on the creative potential factors of fluency, originality, elaboration, and titles. The difference in results could be due to the manner in which creativity was measured.
Hypothesis five predicted that Chinese and U.S. participants would differ in time of adoption of innovations. Hypothesis six predicted that a smaller percentage of Chinese consumers would be earlier adopters (i.e., consumer change agents and early adopters) than US consumers. Results showed that Chinese and U.S. participants did not differ in the time of adoption of innovations and there was no significant difference in the percentage of consumers in each time-of-adoption group. It was anticipated that Chinese participants would have a smaller percentage of earlier adopters than US participants because of cultural values associated with collectivism. However, Chinese culture also has a high tolerance for ambiguity, leading to acceptance of innovative products and a willingness to try something new or different. These results contrast with Lee and Workman [73
] who found that Korean consumers in a collectivist culture (vs. an individualist culture—US) did have a smaller percentage of earlier adopters. One explanation for this disparity may be the cultural value of uncertainty avoidance which appears to carry more weight than collectivism or individualism in determining time-of-adoption. Two different collectivist cultures had different results on time-of-adoption presumably because of uncertainly avoidance—South Korea’s score of 85/100 on uncertainty avoidance indicates a low level of tolerance for uncertainty [37
6. Implications and Suggestions for Further Research
6.1. Implications for Innovation Adoption, Creative Attitudes, and Cultural Values
Based on these results, this study provides academic and practical implications. From an academic perspective, this study adds a new perspective to the literature about relationships among time of adoption, time perception, creative attitudes, and cultural values. From a practitioner perspective, this study provides information for fashion marketers or retailers that will help them understand earlier adopters’ consumption behavior. For example, the results revealed that earlier adopters scored higher on economic time and future orientation. This may indicate that earlier adopters are sensitive about their planned schedule; therefore, that they might expect prompt delivery of new products or service from corporations. Also, earlier adopters have a future orientation; they are forward-thinking and anticipate the introduction of new styles or items or events in the future. These findings suggest that various new types of sustainable products with pro-environmental elements may significantly attract early adopters in a global Chinese market. If early adopter groups in China participate in the consumption of sustainable products, it might be easier to diffuse sustainable products to other global market areas and to strengthen the legitimacy of sustainable products.
Further, these results may help international marketers or retailers to adapt their new brand marketing strategies for different cultures. Currently, in a process of homogenization, collectivist cultures such as China have modified their values to more closely follow individualist cultures. Based on the results of the current study, cultural values (e.g., collectivism) seem to be a definitive force among Chinese students in terms of time perception and creative attitudes. Research on how past time orientation and an attitude favoring creative collaboration in Chinese college students can influence the future workforce at global rising companies in China for sustainability, and open innovation can provide useful academic and practical implications. Thus, a better understanding of consumers in a variety of cultures is called for if international corporations or marketers want to succeed. For example, Chinese consumers scored higher in past orientation than U.S. consumers. This may indicate that Chinese consumers consider their past purchasing experiences as indicative of future service. If past experiences or past memories about a certain brand are positive, they may retain positive images about the brand and, as loyal customers, be willing to spread reports of their satisfaction to other customers. Conversely if they had negative experiences, they might shop less frequently. So, for Chinese consumers, positive customer service experiences may be an important component of brand or store loyalty. What are the implications of all these interesting findings in the Chinese and U.S. business ecosystem for sustainability and open innovation? It is important to provide positive experiences of sustainable products for Chinese consumer groups because Chinese consumers with positive experiences buying sustainable products can more actively consume them than U.S. consumers. This implies that the Chinese government can facilitate and expand sustainable consumption for Chinese consumers through implementing public policy that encourages suppliers and consumers to participate in the sustainable consumption process. In addition, results showed earlier adopters scored higher on creative attitudes than later adopters. This indicates that earlier adopters have an appreciation for imaginative new styles, interesting information, and inventive activities, searching for new ways to experience innovativeness. Methods to attract earlier adopting customers and diminish the risk of boredom will entail providing something new for customers to experience. This implies that if suppliers provide sustainable products with new innovative styles, early adopters among Chinese consumers will consume them, which can contribute to promoting sustainable consumption and building a dense global market toward sustainability. Based on this process, the Chinese economy may not pursue short-term growth but sustainability.
In summary, our preliminary findings provide important implications for public policy makers, suppliers, and consumers to diffuse sustainability issues in global market. Our analyses identify a significant relationship of sustainability with creativity and time preference. Our findings suggest that it is crucial to provide sustainable products with new innovative styles for Chinese consumers, and then to encourage them to tell others about their positive experiences buying them at an early stage of consumption. We can create a virtuous sustainable consumption cycle surrounding the processes of providing pro-environmental products with new innovative styles, consuming them with positive experiences, sharing the positive experience and knowledge about the sustainable products, and institutionalizing the mechanism of supply and demand for sustainable products.
6.2. Limitaions and Further Research Agenda
This comparative study between China and U.S. college students has various limitations in terms of data quality, model specification, and statistical analysis. Further research is required to consider the following issues in order to develop a more systematic theory about time preference, creativity, and innovation attitude across various countries and cultures.
First, we used survey data from only two countries: China and the United States. Further research is required to expand this survey to other Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, Turkey, and Thailand, to Latin America, and to European countries. More cross-nationally expanded data will provide an opportunity to examine cultural differences in creative attitudes and time perception in terms of time-different innovation adopters. In addition, the sample data we used covers only two universities including Lanzhou University in China and Southern Illinois University in America. These two universities are ranked at the middle level of all the universities in each country and may only partially represent normal college students. Further study is required to expand the study to college students at other various levels of universities in these two countries. A more representative sample for each country can contribute to increasing the validity of the empirical findings of how creative attitudes and time perception are associated with early or later adopters for new products.
Second, attitudes toward creativity and time perception may differ between various college majors. For instance, college students with business and economics majors might be more likely to be early adopters than those with other majors. College students with majors of liberal arts may have a more non-organized time attitude than those with majors of law and business. College students with majors of art and design may have a more imaginative and diverse attitude than those with majors of science and math. These major differences in creativity and time perception can provide important implications for how to design and teach college curriculum to intensify time perception and innovation attitude toward sustainability.
Third, a survey of the general population (excluding college students) can provide a more complete picture of relationships between different acceptance levels of innovation adopters, perception of time, and creative attitudes. The extension of the survey scope to the general population of consumers and to different countries will allow a more systematic exploration of innovation adoption, time perception, and creative attitudes.
Last, our statistical analyses, relying on survey data, provided mean differences in creativity and time perception in Chinese and American college students, rather than the effect size of creativity and time preference on adopting new products. The sample in this paper represents one time survey data without controlling key potential factors that may confuse the size of mean differences in our MANOVA model. Those confounding factors may increase or decrease the mean differences in our research model. For instance, not only age, gender, income, and culture but also various experiences in our daily lives such as unemployment, political participation, and economic crisis significantly influence individual attitudes toward time perception and creativity. In order to identify the effects of these factors, further study, relying on longitudinal data and experimental data, is required to conduct a more systematic analysis with a high level of statistical control or experimental control.