Build Social Networks That Inspire

Mar 25, 2018
Management

Women Leading Research: Vijaya Venkataramani

Vijaya VenkataramaniSMITH BRAIN TRUST – Finding creative inspiration for a workplace project can be tricky. But research by professor Vijaya Venkataramani at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business gives new insight.

“If you want to become more creative, you don’t want to immediately reach out to others for help,” she says. “Instead, you should observe potential collaborators first and assess their creative efficacy and innovativeness before approaching them for problem-solving assistance.”

In new research, Vijaya Venkataramani, associate professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, and two co-authors explore how social network contacts influence innovation at work.

Venkataramani and her co-authors, the University of Connecticut’s Travis J. Grosser and the University of Kentucky’s Giuseppe (Joe) Labianca, have each conducted prior research on employee creativity.

“A lot of my previous work and a lot of the previous work of my co-authors has looked at how one’s own social network, and how they are positioned in that network, can help them to become creative,” Venkataramani says.

Venkataramani and others have found that people who have extensive and diverse contacts have greater access to diverse and non-redundant information. “If you connect a lot of diverse individuals who are themselves not connected to each other, then you have access to a lot of diverse and non-redundant information,” she says. “And this non-redundant information is very important to come up with novel and creative ideas.”

In the latest paper, the researchers find that the network of your “alters” — the people you turn to for problem-solving advice — can also help you become more creative.

“We wanted to look at this issue from a different perspective — the alter-centric perspective,” Venkataramani says. “Because so far, all of the research has been about the ego — in other words, what my own social network might help me achieve.”

The researchers conducted a social network study, taking a close look at the people who are sought out for problem-solving advice and examining their characteristics.

“So, what are the characteristics of these other people that influence me? That is the crux of the paper,” she says.

If your alters have high creative self-efficacy, this affects their innovative behavior, and in turn, benefits your own innovation because interacting with such alters helps you shift perspective and accurately evaluate the merit of creative ideas. These alters also serve as innovation role models.

Read more: An Alter-Centric Perspective on Employee Innovation: The Importance of Alters' Creative Self-Efficacy and Network Structure is featured in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Vijaya Venkataramani is an associate professor in the Management & Organization Department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. She serves as an associate editor for the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Research interests: How and why virtual teams outperform traditional face-to-face teams in creative tasks; how employees can get recognition for their novel ideas and secure support for implementing them; how informal social relationships and networks influence leadership, creativity and discretionary employee behaviors that are not stipulated as part of the job, but that still are important for organizational well-being; how leaders can use their networks to benefit their employees, and how such connections influence leader behaviors and decisions.

Selected accomplishments: Research has appeared in such journals as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior & Human Decision Processes.

Women Leading Research: Vijaya Venkataramani

About this series: The Smith School faculty is celebrating Women’s History Month 2018 in partnership with ADVANCE, an initiative to transform the University of Maryland by investing in a culture of inclusive excellence. Daily faculty spotlights support activities from the school’s Office of Diversity Initiatives, starting with the seventh annual Women Leading Women forum on March 1, 2018.

Other fearless ideas from:  Rajshree Agarwal  |  Ritu Agarwal  |  T. Leigh Anenson  |  Kathryn M. Bartol  |  Christine Beckman  |  Margrét Bjarnadóttir  |  M. Cecilia Bustamante  |  Jessica M. Clark  |  Rellie Derfler-Rozin  |  Waverly Ding  |  Wedad J. Elmaghraby  |  Rosellina Ferraro  |  Rebecca Hann  | Amna Kirmani  |  Hanna Lee  |  Hui Liao  |  Jennifer Carson Marr  |  Wendy W. Moe  |  Courtney Paulson  |  Louiqa Raschid  |  Rebecca Ratner  |  Debra L. Shapiro  |  M. Susan Taylor  |  Niratcha (Grace) Tungtisanont  |  Vijaya Venkataramani  |  Janet Wagner  |  Yajin Wang  |  Yajun Wang  |  Liu Yang  |  Jie Zhang  |  Lingling Zhang

Image credit: apinan

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