Forbidden Triads and Innovation

47 Pages Posted: 18 Jun 2019

See all articles by Balazs Vedres

Balazs Vedres

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Tunde Cserpes

Aarhus University, Department of Management

Date Written: June 4, 2019


This article investigates the importance of forbidden triads – high weight open triads – for a wide range of success measures in the history of recorded jazz. Innovative teams face the paradox of relying on experience to generate novelty. We argue that forbidden triads, as conjunctures of dyadic experience, are the locations where successful novel combinations can be recognized and realized. Prior scholarship has sidelined such network structural diversity with strong ties, and assumed that strong ties are mostly closed, and weak ties connect to diverse structural locations. We use data on all recording sessions of more than a century of jazz to show that forbidden triad is the only consistent predictor of six measures of success that span the dualities of insiders and outsiders, and voice and trace. This network structure is also the only predictor of deep success: coinciding success in all four quadrants. Furthermore, forbidden triads that require effort beyond easy structural availability contribute in addition to voice measures of success. We discuss implications for project teams and organizations where innovation is a key goal.

Keywords: innovation, social networks, forbidden triads, structural folds, jazz

Suggested Citation

Vedres, Balazs and Cserpes, Tunde, Forbidden Triads and Innovation (June 4, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Balazs Vedres (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Tunde Cserpes

Aarhus University, Department of Management ( email )

Fuglesangs Alle 4
Aarhus V, 8210


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