Brain power

The right talent mix for developing ideas

Originally posted on The Horizons Tracker.

Creativity and innovation are increasingly collaborative processes, but ensuring the right people are involved at the right stage is crucial to success. Research1 from Bocconi University suggests that the best approach might be to create ideas in the company of strangers and then develop those ideas with people you know well.

The study found that during the idea generation phase, weak ties were particularly useful because they expose us to new and interesting points of view, which opens us up to a range of new possibilities.

When it comes to expanding and executing the idea, however, the study found that it’s best to work with people with whom you have strong ties. The researchers found that these people are most likely to focus on the idea and provide criticism in a more constructive manner.

Smart creativity

By contrast, if we rely on stronger ties during the idea generation phase, we risk being stuck with unstimulating and mediocre ideas. Similarly, if we utilize weak ties during the execution phase, we run the risk of being distracted by continuous stimuli or bombarded with undue criticism.

Interestingly, the researchers found that during high-risk situations, we tend to default to working primarily with those we know well, but this tendency to go with the familiar can harm rather than help effective innovation when we need it the most. This is especially so as managing a larger network can be hard work.

So, if you’re involved in a creative endeavor, it pays to activate your weaker connections during the idea generation phase, and your stronger ties during the execution phase. The researchers believe that companies could help this process by ensuring that innovation is not perceived as excessively risky and therefore prompting us to entrench ourselves within a familiar network of people.

Article source: The Right Talent Mix For Developing Ideas.

Header image source: Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.


  1. Mannucci, P. V., & Perry-Smith, J. E. (2022). “Who are you going to call?” Network activation in creative idea generation and elaboration. Academy of Management Journal, 65(4), 1192-1217.
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Adi Gaskell

I'm an old school liberal with a love of self organizing systems. I hold a masters degree in IT, specializing in artificial intelligence and enjoy exploring the edge of organizational behavior. I specialize in finding the many great things that are happening in the world, and helping organizations apply these changes to their own environments. I also blog for some of the biggest sites in the industry, including Forbes, Social Business News, Social Media Today and, whilst also covering the latest trends in the social business world on my own website. I have also delivered talks on the subject for the likes of the NUJ, the Guardian, Stevenage Bioscience and CMI, whilst also appearing on shows such as BBC Radio 5 Live and Calgary Today.

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