Is High Innovative Performance without Brokerage Possible? A Necessary Condition Analysis

Research Seminar

Gatton College of Business & Economics

To kick-off my research visit to the University of Kentucky, I presented a working paper at the Department of Management’s weekly colloquium. I very much appreciate the supportive nature of the comments and the questions I received. I want to thank everybody who participated for their feedback!


It is a well-established notion that the network positions of employees can constrain or stimulate the generation of novel ideas. The social network literature traditionally distinguishes between brokerage and closure, thereby positing that closed network positions serve as straitjackets that limit the ability of employees to identify and pursue promising opportunities. More recent studies challenge this claim and argue that employees can compensate for the potential drawbacks of closed networks when their personal characteristics match their social environment. A question that has remain unanswered, however, is whether employees can fully compensate for a lack of brokerage or if they can only do so up to the maximum degree associated with their network position.

This study uses Necessary Condition Analysis (NCA) to show that brokerage is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the innovative performance of employees, such that low levels of brokerage prevent the presence of high levels of innovative performance. Our analysis of the advice relations among employees of a market research firm confirms that the degree of advice brokerage imposes a strong upper boundary to the possible innovative performance of employees. We therefore provide evidence that social network positions do not only contribute to individual outcomes on average and ceteris paribus, but that they determine their maximum values as well.