Why should i trust your model? How to successfully enroll digital models for innovation

Paul M. Leonardi, William C. Barley, Da Jung Woo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital simulation models have become increasingly important to innovation processes. When used within organisations intent on innovating products, processes or services, the affordances of these technologies can enable the possibility to explain, experiment, and predict complex systems. As complex tools, however, models must become integrated into a social context characterised by differences in technical knowledge about when, how, and why the models are useful. In this paper, we draw on our experiences studying the labour of digital modelling work over the past 10 years to discuss some of the important social mechanisms through which models come to be trusted by stakeholders, and, consequently, integrated into innovation processes. By comparing three very different contexts we show that the work of trust-building requires modellers to create appeals to the credibility of the model’s analysis, the utility of its outputs, and to negotiate unavoidable political issues that emerge from differing values among parties in the innovation process. Revealing this labour positions models as social objects, and leads us to provide practical recommendations for scholars and practitioners who hope to use modelling as a key process for digital innovation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInnovation: Management, Policy and Practice
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • Digital modeling
  • decision-making
  • digital transformation
  • simulation
  • trust


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