Can Your Friends Make You More Innovative?

by Tim Kastelle

Social influence is important to innovation. One of the critical steps in innovating is getting our great new ideas to spread – and this is often an issue of social influence. Here is an excellent short talk from network researcher Sinan Aral about how to measure social influence:

Sinan Aral: Social Contagion from PopTech on Vimeo.

Here are some of the key ideas that arise from the talk:

  • The economy is a network: in order to understand how innovations diffuse, and how ideas spread, we have to think about the economy as a network. We don’t make decisions in a vacuum – decisions are a social action (see the collected work of Mark Earls on this topic).
  • Your network is also important for idea generation: Jorge Barba recently asked whether innovation is primarily an individual or a group activity. It’s a group effort – just as decisions are social actions, so is idea generation.
  • Can Your Friends Make You More Innovative?

  • If your friends are making you fat, are they also making you innovative?: this is the key issue – if idea generation is a social act, and you want to be more innovative, then you need to spend more time with people and groups that are more innovative.

If we want to innovate more effectively, we have to gain a better understanding of how social influence works.

In the meantime, it’s probably a good idea to start hanging out with people that seem to have a lot of ideas.

Let me know what you think.

Or even better, tell your friends to come and let me know what they think!

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Tim KastelleTim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.