I presented one of my working papers to the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship of the University of Sydney. In this paper, me and my co-authors Jan Dul, Justin Jansen, and Lotte Glaser show that network brokerage—connecting otherwise unconnected colleagues—is a necessary condition for high levels of innovative performance.
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.
The study I presented 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 analyses of the intra-organizational advice networks of two different organizations confirm 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.