Do you need to be a broker to be innovative? A Necessary Condition Analysis

Paper Presentation

I gave a virtual presentation to the Social Network Analysis Discussion Group of the University of Saskatchewan on October 18. I talked about my working paper on brokerage and innovative performance and the application of Necessary Condition Analysis. I want to thank Ana-Maria Bogdan for inviting me and all the participants for attending!

SNA Discussion Group Flyer

We know that brokerage—the extent to which a person connects otherwise unconnected people—has a positive effect on the innovative performance of employees. In contrast to people who are part of strongly connected groups, brokers have access to diverse information that triggers their creativity and the generation of novel ideas. Moreover, it is easier for brokers to challenge the status quo as their behavior is not constrained by strong group norms and their ideas are not influenced by groupthink. What we do not know, however, is whether brokerage is necessary for innovative performance, such that high levels of innovative performance can only be achieved with high levels of brokerage. Although the literature on brokerage clearly supports its positive effect on innovative performance, more recent studies suggest that people in closed networks have the same innovative potential as brokers do. According to this perspective, people can compensate for the negative effects of network closure by adopting a certain cognitive style or increasing the bandwidth of their relationships. We therefore ask the question: does someone needs a broker position to be innovative or not?

During this talk, I will present a working paper in which my co-authors and I explore this question. We combine social network analysis with Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA)—a novel methodology that can be used to determine whether a certain condition (X) is necessary but not sufficient for a certain outcome (Y). I will discuss the theoretical foundations of our research question as well as the logic behind NCA and its application to social network data. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments!

Background readings:

Brokerage & Innovative Performance

Necessary Condition Analysis