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“Creativity and Social Networks: The Relational Advantage of Weak Ties”

While browsing articles regarding the strengths of ties in social networks, I came across a dissertation crafted by a former Cornell Ph.D. student named Ban Hock Kevyn Yong entitled “Creativity and Social Networks: The Relational Advantage of Weak Ties.” Mr. Yong presented a study to argue that there is a more complex relationship between weak ties and creativity than has been claimed in previous studies. He asserted that because people feel more comfortable discussing things with those with whom they have strong ties, and because people are more likely to trust the competence of those with whom they have strong ties, it is strong ties that elicit creativity. So, even though weak ties may be a source of novel information, strong ties are the source with which creativity blossoms. He argues that just because we receive “non-redundant” information from weak ties does not mean we recognize this information as useful or important. His main claim is that, in terms of individual and group creativity, the perceived usefulness of novel information is more important than the quantity of it, which translates into strong ties actually being more influential in this case than weak ones.

In part of his dissertation he conducts a field study in which he finds that the number of strong ties an individual has is positively related with his/her creativity levels. This finding is interesting, and can be linked to what we have discussed in lecture, more specifically that people often report that they find out about jobs from acquaintances rather than friends. It is true that with a higher frequency of novel information from weak ties, there is more opportunity to learn new things, but in terms of creativity, the content of communication is crucial. If you are developing an idea for a Ph.D. dissertation, for example, you are most likely to bounce these ideas off of someone who you consider educated in the field, someone whose competence you trust, and someone who you think will be able to offer insight into your ideas. Therefore, the rapport that will ensue will lead you to think more critically about your own ideas, and will consequentially lead to more creative thinking on your part. Therefore the extent to which novel information is useful in either type of tie highly depends on its function in the context.

To read the full dissertation (which is fantastic), click this link:

https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/11202/Kevyn.Yong%20Dissertation.Creativity.and.Social.Networks.08.01.08.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

 

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