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Where do creative interactions come from? The role of tie content and social networks

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Understanding the determinants of creativity at the individual and organizational level has been the focus of a long history of research in various disciplines from the social sciences, but little attention has been devoted to studying creativity at the dyadic level. Why are some organizational interactions (between individual actors) more likely to generate novel and useful ideas than others? By integrating research on creativity, knowledge sharing, and social networks, this paper identifies how the creative outcome of organizational relationships between individual actors is associated with properties of the knowledge exchanged and of the social networks surrounding such relationships. By studying knowledge diversity at the dyadic (as opposed to the individual level), we show not only that relationships with wider knowledge breadth are more likely to generate more creative outcomes but also that lack of network cohesion surrounding the dyadic relationship provides benefits that go beyond access to diverse information. The results also show that the codifiability of knowledge favors generation of creative outcomes, but is less beneficial in the presence of highly diverse knowledge exchanges. Finally, the empirical evidence shows that emotional closeness (as opposed to communication frequency) of the actors involved in the relationship is a critical dimension of tie strength contributing to creative outcomes. Hypotheses are tested in a sociometric study conducted within the development department of a software development firm.

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