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THINK TANK; Where to Get a Good Idea: Steal It Outside Your Group - New York Times

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Great article on how it is valuable to be a part of different networks. However, I like how the professor brings a theoretical backbone to this perspective.

I had not heard the term Structural Holes before.

''People who live in the intersection of social worlds,'' Mr. Burt writes, ''are at higher risk of having good ideas.''

People with cohesive social networks, whether offices, cliques or industries, tend to think and act the same, he explains. In the long run, this homogeneity deadens creativity. As Mr. Burt's research has repeatedly shown, people who reach outside their social network not only are often the first to learn about new and useful information, but they are also able to see how different kinds of groups solve similar problems.

Mr. Burt began developing his idea about ''structural holes'' -- the notion that people can find opportunities for creative thinking where there is no social structure -- as a graduate student at the University of Chicago in the 1970's. A student of the eminent sociologist James Coleman, he was assigned to study patterns of exchange between companies using a technique called block modeling, which classifies individuals and organizations according to a large amount of data on what they buy, who they know and more. Structural holes between companies was a theme in his 1977 dissertation and became a focus in his 1992 book, ''Structural Holes,'' which applied it to individual behavior.

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