Indeed, I wrote recently about a study exploring the influence our social networks have on our connectivity, with the paper revealing the strong impact both our direct and indirect networks have.
Studies like this suggest that there is no limit to the benefits connectivity provides us, but a second paper suggests we should still strive for a bit of solitude at work.
The Merits of Isolation
It should be said that it isn’t arguing against collaboration or the value of connectivity, but rather that having people that aren’t plugged into the network is beneficial to the creative output of the group.
It all depends on the stage of the innovation process, or in other words, whether you’re looking for information or using that information to devise solutions.
To cut a long story short, they found that when you’re looking for information, having strong networks can be invaluable. When you’re looking to create solutions based upon that information however, connectivity inhibits innovation.
This was typically because when coming up with innovative solutions, being able to see what others are creating often causes us to follow their lead rather than think independently.
With social approaches being deployed to all manner of tasks however, it is certainly something to consider. For instance, many citizen science ventures reside in the information gathering space, so a social approach makes a lot of sense, but in open innovation the emphasis is more on solutions, so making the process transparent could limit the solutions created.
Suffice to say, it is a solitary study so we should be wary about reading too much into things, but it does nonetheless remind us that we should be careful when prescribing collaboration and connectivity for every task.