Structural holes, innovation and the distribution of ideas

  • Robin CowanEmail author
  • Nicolas Jonard
Open Access
Original Article


We model knowledge diffusion in a population of agents situated on a network, interacting only over direct ties. Some agents are by nature traders, others are by nature “givers”: traders demand a quid pro quo for information transfer; givers do not. We are interested in efficiency of diffusion and explore the interplay between the structure of the population (proportion of traders), the network structure (clustering, path length and degree distribution), and the scarcity of knowledge. We find that at the global level, trading (as opposed to giving) reduces efficiency. At the individual level, highly connected agents do well when knowledge is scarce, agents in clustered neighbourhoods do well when it is abundant. The latter finding is connected to the debate on structural holes and social capital.


Social Capital Degree Distribution Knowledge Diffusion Structural Hole Herfindahl Index 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BETAUniversité Louis PasteurStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.UNU-MERITMaastricht UniversityMaastrichtThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Université du LuxembourgLuxembourgLuxembourg

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