Managing creativity in small worlds

The rise of 'small worlds' - clusters of inventors who also have excellent connections to other inventors around the world - provides excellent opportunities for firms, which can exploit the new ideas that are generated from these open and creative networks.

by California Management Review
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

It is a mistake for managers to try to hang on to their 'top geeks' at all costs or prevent them from building contacts outside the company. They will resent any managerial efforts to suffocate their connections with the outside world (which in any case help to create new ideas) or any unwillingness to negotiate with them when they have great ideas.

It is far better to consider innovative policies such as helping to fund a start-up to bring an inventor's idea to life. If the new technology is going to threaten the company's position in the market, they will at least be in a better positive to respond.

Further, any attempt to repress inventors will give a company a poor reputation among other technicians (many of whom will hear about the company's actions through blogs). The two main ways to retain or attract ‘top geeks' is by offering them high pay (from 2001-2003, eBay's chief technologist earned more than twice as much as its CEO) or by promoting them to senior management positions, though it is important not to overburden them with administrative duties.

Managing creativity in small worlds
Lee Fleming & Matt Marx
California Management Review, Vol 48 No 4, Summer 2006

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