Clumpy Networks and Innovation

The growth of the web and the networks that build upon it have allowed us to significantly extend our ability to examine social networks, how they function and the roles of individuals within them.

A number of researchers have reached further to ask the question “How do networks relate to innovation?”  “Are all networks created equal, or do some promote certain types of innovation?”

Steve Borgatti at Boston College has focused on asking how networks influence management science and has published a short essay in which he concludes: “radical innovation is facilitated by sparser and clumpier networks”

Sponsored by Sandia, a paper published by Mote, Hage, Jordan entitled: “Networks, Organizations and Innovation: A General Theory and Research Program” proposes the model shown at left

Out of this is born the notion that Clumpy Networks are critical to driving and delivering breakthrough innovation in companies. Equally importantly, however, we can see that clumpy networks are not good for incremental innovation where dense networks are required.

This is an interesting example of the need to recognize that incremental and radical innovation come about differently, rely on different resources and need different management.