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Between Cooperation and Self-Seeking Behaviors: How Individuals Build and Mobilize their Network in Collaborative Spaces

14 May 2019
11:00 am
San Francesco Complex - Classroom 2

Drawing on the network perspective of creativity (for a review, see Perry-Smith & Mannucci, 2017), this paper aims at deepening the understanding of how individuals leverage on their relationships to generate new creative outcomes. In doing so, we present results of a qualitative study conducted in a collaborative space in Bologna (Italy), which carries out multiple activities in the realm of social innovation. The investigated organization represents an exemplar case of the new hybrid forms of organizing such as co-workings, innovation hubs, fab-labs or incubators, which have proliferated in the last years across European cities (e.g. Capdevila, 2018; Schmidt & Brinks, 2017). Since these work settings are conceived to bring together different actors and stakeholders in order to promote collaboration and generate potential synergies and cross-pollination of ideas in individuals, groups and organizations, they represent an excellent empirical field in which to investigate the relationships between an individual networks and her creative outcomes. Based on data deriving from 22 semi-structured interviews, direct observations and archival analysis, findings highlight the relational work deployed by individuals in managing different relationships developed within the collaborative space. More precisely, findings reveal two main groups of relational mechanisms, whose interplay creates a breeding ground for creativity. The first consists of all the actions aimed at building and strengthening a community through the development of common values, shared routines, and a stimulating environment. The second group reflects the purposive “work” and self-seeking behaviors that individuals enact to leverage their networks in order to get access to relevant resources to their personal purposes and activities (information, knowledge, advice, etc.). This study contributes to extant literature by addressing the overlooked issue of the role of individual agency in shaping networks to generate creative outcomes. This perspective is also consistent with the need for a more dynamic view of creativity in which relational interactions are conceived as ongoing performances and not the mere result of social structure and position.

Fabrizio Montanari - UNIMORE