Unpacking Novelty: The Anatomy of Vision Advantages

35 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2014 Last revised: 22 Jun 2016

See all articles by Sinan Aral

Sinan Aral

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management

Paramveer Dhillon

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Date Written: January 30, 2016


The Strength of Weak Ties and Brokerage Theory rely on the argument that weak bridging ties deliver novel information to brokers. Yet our conceptualization of novelty itself is fundamentally underdeveloped. We therefore develop a theory of how three distinct types of novelty – diversity, total non-redundancy and uniqueness – combine with network structure to create vision advantages. We test our theory using panel data on an evolving corporate email network in a medium-sized digital media firm over twelve months. Three main results emerge from our analysis. First, we confirm the Diversity-Bandwidth Tradeoff at the heart of the vision advantage. As brokers networks become more diverse, their channel bandwidth contracts, creating countervailing effects on access to novel information. Second, we uncover the mechanisms driving the Diversity-Bandwidth Tradeoff and highlight differences in vision advantages across ties. Strong cohesive ties deliver greater information diversity and more total non-redundant information, while weak bridging ties contribute the greatest uniqueness – information which is most different from what other contacts deliver. Third, we find network diversity (or inversely, network constraint) is the dominant factor in the relationship between network structure and longitudinal entropy. This result suggests that weak bridging ties, which provide unique information through low bandwidth, structurally diverse channels, contribute the most to the aggregation of novel information over time.

Keywords: information worker productivity, networks, communication, information exchange, information channels, information flow, knowledge transfer, content analysis, email data

Suggested Citation

Aral, Sinan and Dhillon, Paramveer, Unpacking Novelty: The Anatomy of Vision Advantages (January 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2388254 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2388254

Sinan Aral (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management ( email )

100 Main Street
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States

Paramveer Dhillon

Massachusetts Institute of Technology ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

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