Eclectic Curiosity

Posted on May 25th, 2004, by Steve Hardy in Archives, Uncategorized. No Comments

“People who live in the intersection of social worlds are at higher risk of having good ideas.” This from Ronald S. Burt, a sociologist at the University of Chicago who has forwarded an idea about “structural holes” — the notion that people can find opportunities for creative thinking where there is no social structure. Burt claims that creativity is an import-export game, not a creation game. As such, the process and orgnizational environment for an idea matters more than thinking up the idea in the first place.

Often the value of a good idea, he has found, is not in its origin but in its delivery. His observation will undoubtedly resonate with overlooked novelists, garage inventors and forgotten geniuses who pride themselves on their new ideas but aren’t successful in getting them noticed. “Tracing the origin of an idea is an interesting academic exercise, but it’s largely irrelevant,” Mr. Burt said. “The trick is, can you get an idea which is mundane and well known in one place to another place where people would get value out of it.” …

People with cohesive social networks, whether offices, cliques or industries, tend to think and act the same, he explains. In the long run, this homogeneity deadens creativity. As Mr. Burt’s research has repeatedly shown, people who reach outside their social network not only are often the first to learn about new and useful information, but they are also able to see how different kinds of groups solve similar problems.

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