The Division of Network Ties and Innovation



Recent research on second-order social capital has established that individuals may not only benefit from their own social capital, but they may also benefit from the network ties of those with whom they work closely. Yet, it is unclear whether individuals benefit more if their co-workers’ networks duplicate ties to the same groups in the organization, or rather if they offer ties to parties they are themselves not connected to. Using the concept of network role equivalence – the extent to which two individuals are tied to the same role sets inside the organization – this paper aims to build and test a theory of the division of network ties that advances our understanding of the circumstances under which individuals benefit from equivalent versus non-equivalent second-order social capital. To this end, we derive a series of predictions on how the value of role equivalence of second-order social capital is contingent on characteristics of the relationship to the focal colleague. Through a mixed-method study exploiting a unique setting of manager and technologist R&D professionals in a large multinational who are partnered-up in their pursuit of innovation, we test how managers’ (technologists’) innovation performance depends on their own network resources, their technology (manager) partners’ network resources and the degree of role equivalence between them.