Social Capital and Innovation: An Intra-Departmental Perspective**

Article excerpt

This study examines the relationship between social capital that arises from individual relations and individual innovativeness. Social capital is considered a multidimensional construct and individual innovativeness is measured through six different indicators of scientific production. Individual social capital is compared with the innovative performance of each individual in a whole department. Our work shows that the capacity to access and to mobilize resources through these relations is a key factor in increasing individual innovativeness in a context in which it may be measured. This questions the importance of an individual's position in a network as well as the structure of the network with respect to innovativeness.

Key words: innovativeness, network structure, resources, social capital

Introduction

In recent years, literature on management has highlighted the role of relations and networks in business results (Gulati et al. 2000; Nohria/Eccles 1992) and particularly in innovation (Ahuja 2000; Inkpen/Tsang 2005). The most frequently-used framework for this has been the study of inter-organizational relations. However, work on relations within organizations has not progressed at the same pace and few studies concern themselves with the differing performances that stem from the internal relations within an organization or its departments.

Abundant material may be found in both sociological and management literature (Adler/Kwon 2002; Lin 1999) that highlights the existence of a specific form of capital that is derived from interpersonal relations: social capital. It arises out of patterns of relational behaviour that occur in exchange networks between individual and collective actors (Bourdieu 1986; Coleman 1988).

The study of business innovation within the firm has centred, above all, on the concept of intellectual capital and the learning capacity of organizations and their members (Cohen/Levinthal 1990; Kogut/Zander, 1992; Quinn et al. 1996). However, these types of approaches do not centre on the influence that these relations have on individual production.

Furthermore, there are organizations or parts of an organization whose principal purpose is innovation, particularly research centres, R&D departments in firms, and universities. The members of these types of innovation-orientated organizations are endowed with different levels of social capital depending on their position in the network. This different endowment of social capital will influence their results (McFadyen/Cannella 2005). If different amounts of social capital affect innovation at an organizational level (Ahuja 2000; Bell 2005), the same will occur at the individual level. Its different relational capital will also affect possibilities for innovation and this will end up affecting the results of their organization (Inkpen/Tsang 2005). So as to link up social capital at an individual level with the results of individual innovation, these too must be measured individually (Rodan/Galunic 2004).

Thus, the role that relations play in innovative capacity at an individual level has hardly been studied. This research seeks to understand which aspects of individual relations within a department improve individual innovativeness. It pursues one principal and a further two secondary objectives. Its principal objective is to demonstrate the way in which intra-organizational and intra-departmental relations, which reflect the different social capital of each individual, are seen to affect individual levels of innovativeness. Furthermore, bearing in mind the idea of social capital as a complex multidimensional concept, we seek to demonstrate the way in which different dimensions of social capital are interrelated. Finally, in view of the existing yardsticks for scientific production, we wish to understand the way in which the different methods of measuring innovative production in the academic world influence the results. …