Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Innovation & The Strong Tie Dilemma

Here's a puzzle: Strong ties mean a common mindset and can inhibit innovation and reinforce the status quo (members' mental models converge and reinforce each other, making them very hard to dislodge). But innovation requires a 'high care' environment according to e.g. von Krogh. This because we need to trust to reveal half-formed ieas without fear of reprisal and to take risks in experimentation. Also a common language and high reliance on shared tacit knowledge allows is necessary to have an expert debate. Both of these factors imply strong ties.

So what's the ideal for innovation? Sounds like to really change things you need to nurture people who are recognised as part of a group but nevertheless sit on the periphery or are equally strong members of other groups too. A CoP seeking to innovate therefore needs to ensure it cycles members and conciously tries to bring in some of those that challenge it.

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