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Social Networks, Creativity, and Entrepreneurship

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Abstract

The lone genius view is no longer the sole paradigm used to understand creativity, consistent with the highly collaborative environments in which many entrepreneurs and workers operate. To this end, we review the body of research that views creativity through a social network lens to fully understand the social aspects of creativity. We start by describing why understanding creativity from a social network perspective is important for all organizations and is particularly relevant to the study of entrepreneurship. Then we categorize creativity and social network research into relational and structural perspectives, with the former emphasizing tie strength and other aspects of relationship quality and the latter emphasizing local and global network structure. We highlight consistencies and inconsistencies and review some of the contingencies that scholars have identified. We conclude by suggesting avenues for future research that can potentially resolve some of the existing contradictions.
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... We tested our hypotheses in three experimental studies. While rarely applied in networks-creativity research (see Perry-Smith, 2014, for a relevant exception), experimental studies are best suited to isolate the effect of network ties, as well as to explore the underlying mechanisms (Phelps, Heidl, & Whadwa, 2012;Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015. In Study 1, we test our Hypothesis 1 in order to empirically establish which tie type is more conducive to creativity in each phase. ...
... Second, we controlled for participants' pre-existing network structure. This control was warranted because network structure has been shown to affect both individual creativity (Perry- Smith & Mannucci, 2015) and individuals' likelihood to engage with weak or strong ties (Burt, 1992). We used the information provided in the name generator questions to compute each participant's network size and network density score using UCINET software (Borgatti, Everett, & Freeman, 2002). ...
... Our research provides a critical empirical test of the causal effects of weak versus strong ties in different phases of the idea journey. While different paradigms exist where scholars assert either weak or strong ties benefit creativity (see Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015, for a review), a conclusive empirical test of the impact of conversations with weakly tied contacts versus strongly tied ones does not exist. Building on recent theoretical frameworks (Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2017), we constructed a randomized experiment where participants interacted with either weak or strong contacts to identify the causal role of tie strength for idea generation and elaboration. ...
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Considering creativity as a journey beyond idea generation, scholars have theorized that different ties are beneficial in different phases. As individuals usually possess different types of ties, selecting the optimal ties in each phase and changing ties as needed are central activities for creative success. We identify the types of ties (weak or strong) that are helpful in idea generation and idea elaboration, and given this understanding, whether individuals activate ties in each phase accordingly. In an experimental study of individuals conversing with their ties, we provide evidence of the causal effects of weak and strong ties on idea generation and idea elaboration. We also find that individuals do not always activate ties optimally and identify network size and risk as barriers. Our results in a series of studies reveal that individuals with large networks, despite providing more opportunity to activate both strong and weak ties, activate fewer weak ties and are less likely to switch ties across phases than individuals with smaller networks, particularly when creativity is perceived as a high-risk endeavor. Finally, we find that activating the wrong ties leads to either dropping creative ideas or pursuing uncreative ones.
... Interestingly, researchers who have studied social networks initially emphasised the role of social networks excessively and minimised the role of personality (J. Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015). Few studies have tested the interaction effect between individual personality and social networks (Kim et al., 2018). ...
... However, spanning structural holes can also reduce knowledge 1 The structural approach has also focused on individuals' position within the global structure of relationshipsi.e., centrality. Unlike structural holes, consensus has emerged around the effect of centrality on creativity, with scholars agreeing on a quadratic relationship (see Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015, for a review). Thus, we do not focus on centrality in this paper. ...
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Social networks have gained increased attention as a lens to understand employee creativity around the world. We propose that a complete understanding of whether and when structural holes and tie strength are conducive to creativity requires considering the cultural tightness of the country individual creators are embedded in. Building on the diversity-bandwidth tradeoff identified in network research, we theorize that in culturally tight countries, where knowledge diversity is the primary need, structural holes and low tie strength (i.e., network characteristics that provide knowledge diversity) have a stronger positive effect. Conversely, in culturally loose countries, where knowledge bandwidth is the primary need, cohesive networks and higher tie strength (i.e., network characteristics providing knowledge bandwidth) are more likely to enhance creativity. We find evidence in support of these predictions using meta-analytic data synthesizing more than 30 years of research. These findings point to the importance of considering the tightness of cultural context when constructing networking actions and strategies to foster individual creativity.
... With homogeneous partners, startups bear fewer transaction costs in communication (Forbes et al., 2006;Martinez & Aldrich, 2011) and have more possibilities to establish strong and close ties (Smith et al., 2012). However, if entrepreneurs establish networks with "whom I know," the networks may constrain effectuation and insulate firms from innovative information and resources that facilitate outstanding performance (Kerr & Coviello, 2020;Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015). In other words, they may severely limit their development and opportunities. ...
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... Employees who have higher intrinsic motivation toward a task will be more eager to spend time and effort on understanding the problem at hand, generating new and interesting ideas, and developing solutions (Amabile et al., 1996;Liu et al., 2016). One way in which catalysts might boost a creator's intrinsic motivation is by providing encouragement and emotional support (Amabile et al., 1996;Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015). When their catalysts provide emotional support and encouragement, creators may find that these positive affirmations are motivating (Madjar et al., 2002;Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2017), which would encourage them to take more risks and experiment with more novel ideas. ...
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... For example, research on the effect of interpersonal factors such as personal networks could yield interesting insights. Social networks are a powerful driver of creativity (see Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2015, and Burt, Chapter 5 in this volume, for recent reviews), and there is reason to believe that their dynamics could have considerable effects on creative trajectories. Research in this area, however, is still in its infancy. ...
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