Is Brokerage Necessary for Innovative Performance? A Necessary Condition Analysis

Paper Presentation

On Saturday June 30 I presented one of my working papers on workplace social networks and innovative behavior during Sunbelt 2018. In this paper—which I’m writing together with professors Jan Dul, Justin Jansen and Lotte Glaser—We examine whether high levels of innovative behavior can only be achieved if an employee has a relatively open network in which many of his contacts are not directly connected themselves.

Co-Authors: Professor Justin Jansen, Professor Jan Dul, & Professor Lotte Glaser.


Drawing upon the literature on brokerage, closure, and innovative behavior of employees, we develop a model that explains why network brokers do not always reap the benefits associated with their network position and why some studies, contrary to the general belief, report no or negative effects of network brokerage on innovative performance. We argue that a social network rich in structural holes is a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovative behavior, such that high levels of innovation can only be achieved with high levels of brokerage. We tested this claim by conducting a social network analysis in a Dutch market research agency and by using Necessary Condition Analysis to estimate the necessity of brokerage. Our results show that a network rich in structural holes is indeed a necessary condition for the innovative behavior of employees, suggesting that absence of high levels of brokerage servers as a bottleneck for innovative performance. We discuss the implications of this finding for structural hole theory, social network theory, and the literature on corporate entrepreneurship.