One of Us or One of My Friends: How Social Identity and Tie Strength Shape the Creative Generativity of Boundary-Spanning Ties
Organization Studies, 2014

Social ties to colleagues on other work teams can spur creative ideas and workplace innovation by exposing an individual to diverse knowledge. However, for external knowledge to be recombined into innovation, the knowledge must first be recognized as potentially valuable. Going beyond traditional structural explanations, we predict that the use of diverse knowledge to generate creative ideas and solutions will depend in part on employees’ psychological attachment to the organizational groups to which they belong, i.e., their social identity, and the strength of their social ties. We test our hypotheses in an R&D division of a global high-technology firm, finding that social identity influences the creative generativity of boundary-spanning ties. Specifically, stronger team identity renders interactions with colleagues on other work teams less generative of creative ideas, while identification with an overarching, superordinate group (e.g., a division) enhances creative generativity. We also hypothesize and find that tie strength attenuates the negative effect of team identity.