“Managing Creativity in Small Worlds”
LEE FLEMING, MATT MARX
CALIFORNIA MANAGEMENT REVIEW, 2006
How does extended collaborative networks
influence creativity through information flow
and knowledge transfer?
Why is this question important?
1. Inform policy-makers on how to encourage innovation.
2. Determine whether firms should maintain traditional closed
“silos” of information or share information.
3. Learn to harness power of collaboration to improve business.
PREVIOUS LITERATURE VS. CURRENT PAPER
• Little analysis done on large-scale collaboration
network because of difficult in collecting and analyzing
million data points.
• Information and personnel flow have increased
dramatically in recent years due to new technologies,
which significantly alters collaboration network.
DATA SOURCE & DESCRIPTION
• Data from patents issued from 1975 to 1999
• 2M+ unique inventors and patent co-authors used
• Across all industries in United States
• In-depth focus on Silicon Valley and Boston regions
• Weighted in favor of industries that use patents
frequently (i.e. farm machinery vs. fashion designs)
POTENTIAL SHORTCOMINGS OF DATA
• Creativity may not be accurately gauged by
number of patents, because not all innovations are
patented or copyrighted. (i.e. open-source
• Citations are often added by patent office, even
if patentee did not include in application, so
“importance” of invention may be inaccurately
RESULTS: INVENTORS ARE MORE MOBILE
The proportion of inventors that are patenting with two different
assignees (firms) within seven-year period is increasing, indicating
increasing mobility of inventors.
RESULTS: IDENTIFYING GATEKEEPERS
gatekeeper - technical
professionals who span
accelerating the process of
invention by contributing
to and capitalizing on inter-
firm “spillovers” of
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
1. More inventors are collaborating, hence enlarging
collaboration network and increasing number of
2. Inventors are more mobile than before, interacting
with multiple firms and teams rather than one (i.e.
more people serving as bridges between clusters)
3. Inventors that are mobile with large diverse
connections can be identified in the network model as
gatekeepers, who are believed to increase the inflow
of knowledge into a firm.
SHORTCOMINGS & SUGGESTIONS
1. Provide more robust analysis of network.
Examples: Measure clustering coefficient and shortest path
within a region’s collaboration cluster.
2. More empirical evidence on the value of
Example: Collect data on whether firm’s patenting rates
increase when a firm hires more gatekeepers.
3. Use another measure of creativity besides
number of patents.
Examples: Measure number of start-up companies founded,
number of unique products designed, etc...