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Lecture “Network Origin of Good Ideas”

24 September 2021 @ 17:00 - 18:30


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24 September 2021
17:00 - 18:30
Event Category:
Outreach Events

The 2021-22 Allievi Programme Opening Lecture

“Network Origin of Good Ideas”

Ronald Burt (The University of Chicago and Bocconi University)

Abstract: A central theme in contemporary network theory is the role of network brokers in creating value within markets and organizations. Network brokers correspond to Merton’s “cosmopolitans,” Katz and Lazarsfeld’s “opinion leaders,” and more distantly, Schumpeter’s and Hayek’s touchstone images of what it means for a person to be an entrepreneur. One thread of the network argument concerns creativity and good ideas. With information heterogeneous between groups, network brokers connecting across groups are more likely to appear creative when they translate information from one group into information valuable for another group. In other words, creativity is an import-export game, value resides in the audience (versus the source), and good ideas are a by-product of the network brokerage mechanism. To illustrate the argument at the level of individuals, I describe the network association with creativity for senior managers in a large American electronics company. The organization is rife with structural holes within and between local silos, and brokerage has its expected correlates: Network brokers are more likely to express ideas, less likely to have ideas dismissed, and more likely to have their ideas evaluated as valuable. To illustrate the argument at the level of teams, I describe the network association with creativity in episodes of the TV series Doctor Who. Teams containing network brokers are more likely to deliver the episodes that expert opinion deems creative.

Chaired by Pietro Garibaldi

Introduction by Diego Gambetta

Welcome from a Senior Allievo to the new Allievi

Ronald S. Burt is a Distinguished Professor at Bocconi University, and the Charles M. Harper Leadership Professor of Sociology and Strategy at the University of Chicago. His work describes social networks creating advantage. In addition to computer software and research articles, his last three books include the one that proposed the concept of structural holes, Structural Holes (1992, Harvard University Press), a broad review of links between network structure and performance, Brokerage and Closure (2005, Oxford University Press), and argument and evidence on spillover from affiliation with advantaged others, Neighbor Networks (2010, Oxford University Press). Teaching materials and preprints of recent work can be downloaded from www.ronaldsburt.com.

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