Intra-Organizational Networks of Innovation: Proportion of Simmelian Ties and Individual Innovativeness



In this paper we propose a complementary approach to traditional explanations of how individual network characteristics affect their ability to generate innovations. In particular, by partitioning individual networks in two mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories of ties, Simmelian vs. non-Simmelian ties, we argue for the importance of their joint consideration to explain individuals’ innovativeness. While both sets of ties provide conditions that are necessary for the generation of innovation, no one set alone provides conditions that are also sufficient to explain individual innovative outputs. In the context of three distinct business units in a large multinational semiconductor company we survey 253 engineers collecting data about their knowledge sharing network and their innovative productivity. Results show that over and above traditional predictors of innovativeness, the proportion of Simmelian ties they have critically affects their innovative capabilities. In particular we observe an inverse U-shaped relationship between proportion of Simmelian ties and individuals’ innovative output and we further observe that the upward and downward sloping of this curve becomes steeper for individuals with higher job rank. Implications for network research and practice are discussed.  

Professor of Strategy and Organizations in the Department of Management and Technology at Bocconi University. Marco received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon University. His recent research has appeared in such journals as the Academy of Management Journal, the Annals of the Academy of Management, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Organization Studies, and European Management Journal among others. 

Marco served as a member of the Editorial Board of the Academy of Management Review, and is currently a member of the Editorial Board of the Academy of Management Journal and Organization Science.

His research focuses on understanding mechanisms and returns to informal network relationships defined within and across organizations. In particular, Marco studies the social context of intra- and inter-organizational ties focusing on social networks, knowledge management, innovativeness, and performance.