Where Do Stars Come From? The Role of Star versus Non-Star Collaborators in Creative Settings
Posted: 4 Mar 2014 Last revised: 9 Nov 2018
Date Written: September 1, 2017
Creative stars make disproportionately influential contributions to their fields. Yet we know little about how an innovator’s creative performance is affected by collaborating with stars. This paper studies the creative aspects of interpersonal collaboration from a new perspective: the quality of the collaborator. Both star and non-star collaborators provide different benefits to a focal innovator. The innovator benefits from collaborating with non-stars because they may provide access to diverse information improving performance on the creative task at hand. In contrast, a focal innovator benefits from collaborating with stars because she can then experience and learn the star’s superior set of creative skills and thus build lasting creative capabilities. Building on a theoretical argument about those two different collaboration purposes, we first examine how a star collaboration (versus a non-star collaboration) affects a comprehensive measure of an innovator’s creativity: the likelihood of emerging as a star. Second, we examine how the different creative benefits of engaging with a star versus a non-star collaborator affect the effect of two widely studied aspects of interpersonal collaboration on star emergence: social network cohesion and expertise similarity. In contrast to collaborations with non-stars, for which social cohesion and expertise similarity limit access to diverse information negatively affecting star emergence, social network cohesion and expertise similarity have a decidedly positive effect on star collaborations by improving the transfer of the star’s set of creative skills. Our empirical setting consists of designers who have been granted design patents in the United States from 1975 through 2010.
Keywords: Star, Interpersonal Collaboration Networks, Emergence of Stars, Design Patents, Knowledge Transfer
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