Social networks can be important sources of information and insights that may spark employee creativity. The cross-fertilization of ideas depends not just on access to information and insights through one's direct network-the people one actually interacts with-but at least as much on access to the indirect network one's direct ties connect one to (i.e., people one does not interact with directly, but with whom one's direct ties interact). We propose that the reach efficiency of this indirect network-its nonredundancy in terms of interconnections-is positively related to individual creativity. To help specify the boundaries of this positive influence of the indirect network, we also explore how many steps removed the indirect network still adds to creativity. In addition, we propose that the efficiency (nonredundancy) of one's direct network is important here, because more efficient direct networks give one access to indirect networks with greater reach efficiency. Our hypotheses were supported in a multilevel analysis of multisource survey data from 223 sales representatives nested within 11 divisions of a Chinese pharmaceutical company. This analysis also showed that the creative benefits of reach efficiency were evident for 3 and 4 degrees of separation but were greatest for indirect ties that depend only on one's direct ties.

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ERIM Top-Core Articles
Journal of Applied Psychology
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM), Erasmus University

Hirst, G., van Knippenberg, D., Zhou, J., Quintane, E., & Zhu, C. (2015). Heard it through the grapevine: Indirect networks and employee creativity. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(2), 567–574. doi:10.1037/a0038333