Quality & Quantity

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 143–181 | Cite as

Social network evolution in creative process of CNPD teams: a case study of Chinese companies

  • Wei ZhangEmail author
  • Yongli LiEmail author
  • Wenyao Zhang
  • Shengli Dai


The existing theories about how social networks affect creativity mostly focus on a certain stage in the organizational life of an idea, for instance, ideas generation, commercialization of ideas, and a previous assumption refers that multiple attributes of social networks of creative team are static. It is not possible to resolve such a realistic and important issue that how dynamic evolution of social networks affects the creative process at the fuzzy front-end of complex new product development (CNPD) of research and development (R&D) teams. This paper studies six R&D teams of CNPD from three new high-tech enterprises, in terms of network transaction content-heterogeneity/homogeneity of task knowledge, network relationship strength—weak tie/strong tie, and network structure—core–periphery as three major dimensions of social networks. It analyzes their dynamic evolution in the creative process and its influence on three sub-processes named idea generation, idea screening, and idea development. We find that in R&D teams network transaction content-heterogeneity of task knowledge, weak-tie network relationship, and discrete network structure are conducive to idea generation; homogeneity of task knowledge, strong-tie network relationship, and centralized network structure are good for idea screening; homogeneity of task knowledge in the network is maintained while new knowledge is obtained actively from the outside; internal network relationship is dominated by strong tie while weak tie is connected with the outside; both diffused and balanced network structures are beneficial to idea development.


Social network Knowledge heterogeneity Ties Core–periphery Creative process Complex new product development 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Policy and ManagementCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Business AdministrationNortheastern UniversityShengyangPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.School of ManagementHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.School of Public Policy and ManagementCentral China Normal UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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