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Where Do Good Innovation Ideas Come From? Exploring the Influence of Network Connectivity on Innovation Idea Quality

Authors


Address correspondence to: Jennie Björk, Center for Business Innovation, Department of Technology Management and Economics, Chalmers University of Technology SE-412 96 Göteborg, Sweden. Email: jennie.bjork@chalmers.se

Abstract

This paper aims to add to innovation management theory and practice by exploring the interrelationship between innovation idea quality and idea providers' network connectivity, using social network analysis. The study uses a database from a company that has worked systematically with idea management over a long period of time and today has a well-established information technology system that collects ideas from a large number of employees. In addition to the idea database, a number of interviews with key individuals within innovation were conducted to create rich contextual knowledge and understand more in detail how ideas are handled in the company. The analysis indicated that there is a clear interrelationship between the network connectivity and the quality of the innovation ideas created. The analysis was done for all the innovation ideas and then for ideas created by single individuals and by groups, respectively. In all three analyses the proportion of high-quality innovation ideas increased, as a step function, between the least connected group and the group thereafter. There is apparently a need for a certain amount of relations to increase the proportion of high-quality innovation ideas generated. Regarding only ideas provided by single individuals, more connections within the network resulted in a higher proportion of high-quality ideas. A different pattern was seen for ideas provided by groups as the proportion of high-quality innovation ideas grew with some increase in the connectivity of groups but declined with a further increase in connectivity. The findings suggest a number of implications for ideation management. To increase the number of high-quality innovation ideas created by individuals, the possibility to interact with other people should be supported and facilitated. However, in these settings, where individuals work with others in different groups, the most connected groups perform worst in terms of the proportion of high-quality ideas generated, which points to the necessity to consider a multitude of factors when managing ideation.

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