KARL MOORE – This Is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, Talking Management for the Globe and Mail. Today I am delighted to speak to INSEAD’s Andrew Shipilov.
So Andrew you have been looking at networks and creativity, how are they linked?
ANDREW SHIPILOV – I would say that creativity simply cannot exist without networks, because the image of somebody, an inventor or a creator, sitting in the lab and sort of randomly picking the products and mixing them together and designing something magical does not represent the reality. In reality, creativity for the individual or for the organization depends on the social structure and networks are the manifestation of a social structure. As it turns out, creativity actually is being affected by the kind of ties people build throughout their careers and that will be consequential for the creativity of their organizations. So networks are helpful for creativity because they channel information, you know what the others are doing thus you can combine this information in different ways that others perhaps have not thought about.
KARL MOORE – How does your professional career affect your ability to contribute creativity to an organization?
ANDREW SHIPILOV – I think Karl if you change your job, for example you work for one company and then you go work for another company, when you move to your new place of employment you probably still have friends in the former job. If your former employer is smart enough they could actually exploit that. In other words, they could create conditions for which it would actually be interesting for people who are your former colleagues to stay in touch with you, and through this link your former colleagues can see what their competitor is doing and they could pay more attention to what is going on in that organization, and by going elsewhere you are creating something which is called a bridging tie between two firms. The more bridging ties the firm has connecting it to the external environment, the more feelers it has, the more understanding the firm has about what is going on in the world. So one of the studies I have done is looking at how fashion houses in the global fashion industry can benefit from losing people. What we find is that in fact when they lose people to competition they can receive information from competition from those bridging ties. As a concrete example, let’s say you are the fashion house who lost 2 designers to 2 other fashion houses. In one fashion house, their designers draw inspiration from Russian art. In the other fashion house, they draw inspiration from Chinese art. If you know about those things, as the fashion house which lost 2 people to these 2 fashion houses, you can say, “Aha, perhaps I could draw inspiration from a combination of Russian art and Chinese art and I could create some products which combine some Russian and Chinese motives into the clothing.” Now mind you, this is not competitive espionage, this is just understanding what is going on around you and trying to get insights and get ideas as to what things I could combine to become creative.