This study examines when and how engineers who connect to brokers who span structural holes in communication networks can improve innovative performance at their firm. Using survey data on social networks at a large B2B software company, we find that engineers who pay attention to information from brokers achieve higher innovative performance than those who pay little (or no) attention to such information. Moreover, we find that the advantage of paying attention to brokers’ information is magnified when focal engineers are embedded in highly constrained networks. Yet, our post-hoc analysis reveals that engineers normally allocate less attention to information from brokers than that from local colleagues partially because brokers’ information is perceived to be less relevant to the engineers. These findings about the crucial role of attention allocation for secondhand brokers make contributions to studies of social networks and innovation.
Contact person: Marina Chugunova