|Ideas and information flow through social relationships. We need to be open enough to grab them. When you think of innovation as a flexible process, it is more likely to succeed than purely as an investment vehicle for returns. The above is an adapted figure. I used Artflow to sketch it. It is open for interpretation.|
Social relationships whether we know it or not can get us access to information and resources. In addition, of course, influence as well. The degree and extent of our relationships with people determine how innovations surface from the dark and how rapidly they can be diffused among network members.
Social relationships within networks play a huge role particularly during the early stages of innovation process and the kind of relationships and the structure of the networks in terms of how dense they are further promotes innovation.
“The influence of social relationships on innovation stems particularly from two obvious reasons” says Olav Sorenson from the Yale school of management in his working paper on “Role of social networks in innovation’ published in NBER (National bureau of economic research).
The first one is that innovation process requires inputs, sharing of expertise and contribution from multiple people. Moreover, such information and people are distributed across the world. Rarely can we say that innovation or the outcome of innovation results from one single individual working all alone.
Secondly, there is no guarantee that new ideas will succeed. It is unpredictable and we need to accept that there is a great degree of uncertainty. It is difficult for investors and entrepreneurs to predict the outcome of their investment choices.
In such situations, they rely on their instincts as well as the trust they place another person in the social network for them to confide, discuss and take another course of action. They rarely rely on rational or logical calculations.
In effect, it is to say that the strength of social relationships can influence the success or failure of innovation. There needs to be a shift from thinking innovation as purely an investment vehicle for returns to a more process oriented approach, which can be potentially, be shaped, and molded as we move along a more flexible process.
Measuring the quality and pattern of relationships within a social network has always been a challenge. Understanding the depth of relationships that people have within social networks has been difficult as it relies on the responses of the network members themselves. Capturing such responses from network members is expensive, more over the ‘give and take’ in a relationship is captured at a snapshot in time, and this may not be accurate.