How Networks Aid Creativity

How Networks Aid Creativity

How Networks Aid Creativity

One of the inspirations for my PhD research was seeing how certain colleagues were able to have their creative ideas heard and used while other co-workers seemed to struggle. I found that even though I worked with a lot of intelligent people, only some really succeeded. It was my curiosity around the point that led me to my initial doctoral research agenda and led me complete my PhD.)

One answer to the differences in success rates was succinctly described in, Givers and Takers a book by Adam Grant where he argued

” networks come with three major advantages : private information, diverse skills, and power. (p. 30)”

It’s easy to argue that networks help people with information sharing, skill building, and connecting to others who are similar; however, what is often missed is that power structures influence the communication, evaluation, and implementation of creative ideas.

Power, as Brian Uzzi from Northwestern University uses it, can mean hierarchical or political power, such as being in a trusted network of an executive champion, which is a traditional view of power. Alternatively, it can refer to a more general power to influence others, as in the way that a person in a collaborative environment can be a trusted change agent and able to help others adapt or adopt creative ideas.

As networks are based on interactions, it follows that developing the relations within your network will enhance your creative success.


  1. Help you make better ideas.
  2. Give your ideas support and/or resources.
  3. Provide you with emotional support.


Ways to build your network:

  1. Increase your network on the basis of your honest and authentic self, and avoid wanting to be friends with powerful people. People at the same level as you can be strong allies.  Second, narrow focus on networking with powerful people can make one appear desperate, and nothing is as big a warning sign as a desperado.
  2. Identify people who agree with your creative ideas and who will support you. Actively listen to the people who criticize or fail to support you and try to address their concerns as a means of rapid development.
  3. Avoid time-wasters and negative people.  Try to steer clear of those people who discount your ideas. Armchair critics are a dime a dozen, and you really don’t need them. Look for people who are constructive even if they are not interested in helping you outright.

I currently work for Red Hat software, an Open organization. For me, the company operates using a meritocracy, where the best ideas are used regardless of source. The main way to network is just finding people who are constructive and helpful. An Open organization, such as Red Hat, is proactive, has intense idea generation, and there can be increased ability for an associate to implement concepts. While in a traditional organization, finding a champion for an idea can be effective, in an Open organization you need to be the tenacious champion for your idea. For either type of organization, the form of the networks that you build through relationships and through the good work that you do are integral.



Image “Network” by Jurgen Appelo used under CC by 2.0  


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