Finding New Ideas When You Don’t Have a Broad Network


I’m sharing the ‘Finding new ideas…‘ article but opening it with the 2010 ‘Supply Chain‘ extract. Why? Because if you’re in the AAPN, you don’t need to read the ‘Finding new ideas…..’ article. You’ve already GOT the “collaboration with multiple companies to create new industry structures” because when you read “critical payers in your supply chain may be several links away” and note that all 30 links in our chain are in our network, well then you have a BROAD NETWORK, as broad as it goes, no matter how far away ‘the link’.

Want proof? Show up at our 2018 Conference in Miami May 6-8 by registering now and you’ll get ‘recombinated‘ (see below).

“Companies need .. collaboration with multiple companies to create new industry structures… even linking up with competitors to tackle challenges of scale .. sometimes the critical payers in your supply chain may be several links away… challenges are too great for the supply chain of one enterprise to tackle on its own … collaboration can bring cost-efficient, innovative solutions and a competitive and economic advantage.”

Finding New Ideas When You Don’t Have a Broad Network
HBR: March 16, 2018

People who study creativity and innovation talk a lot about the value of “recombination” — bringing existing ideas, practices, processes, or technologies together in new ways or applying them in fresh contexts or markets. It’s a model that has led to many popular consumer products, such as leak-proof water bottles that borrow nozzles from shampoo dispensers, and home cholesterol testers that incorporate the inject/eject mechanism from CD players.

Over the last three decades, research has shown that the people most likely to innovate via recombination talk with groups of people that don’t talk to each other. In the language of social networks, these people span diverse clusters, which gives them a “vision advantage,” as the sociologist Ronald Burt is fond of putting it. Their position as “network brokers” allows them to see things that others can’t.

So, if you want to innovate, you should become a network broker, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Changing your network is hard, because it’s not just about who you talk to. It’s about who your friends and co-workers communicate with — and you can’t dictate that, even if you forge new relationships.

But not to worry. Our recent research using survey data on communication networks among software engineers at a large mobile services company shows that people who are firmly ensconced in a single, densely connected community (“non-brokers,” for short) can be as innovative as network brokers if they follow one simple, counterintuitive strategy: narrow their focus.

Though brokers benefit from allocating their attention in a balanced way across all their contacts, scouting for recombination opportunities across communities, non-brokers fare poorly when they take a similar tack. We found that they can be up to four times less likely to innovate when they scan the horizon of their more-constrained networks than when they selectively attend to a few communication partners who can help them see anomalies and inconsistencies among local ideas within their domain.

It doesn’t seem to matter much who non-brokers pay attention to as long as they focus intensely on a few key contacts who talk to each other frequently. When they do that for a sustained period, they begin to hear differences in the way those people present information, approach problems, and think through solutions on the same topics. Read More


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