The social underpinnings of absorptive capacity: The moderating effects of structural holes on innovation generation based on external knowledge

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Abstract

Building on absorptive capacity and social network research, in this paper I investigate how individuals inside the organization use external knowledge to generate innovations. Through original sociometric data collected from 276 scientists, researchers, and engineers from the Research and Development division of a large multinational high-tech company, I show that the effects of external knowledge on individuals' innovativeness are contingent upon individuals' position in the internal social structure. In particular, results indicate that the positive effects of external knowledge on innovation generation become more positive when individuals sourcing external knowledge span structural holes in the internal knowledge-sharing network. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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