Mathijs de Vaan David Stark Balázs Vedres

Game changer. The topology of creativity

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What accounts for creative success when the unit of innovation is a team? In particular, what are the sociological factors that explain why some ensembles are able to meet the challenge of creating a cultural product that is not only inventive but also critically acclaimed? We build on work pointing to structural folding - the network property of a cohesive group whose membership overlaps with that of another cohesive group. To explore the processes whereby structural folding contributes to creative success, we draw on new insights in cultural sociology. We hypothesize that the effects of structural folding on game changing success are especially strong when overlapping groups are cognitively distant. That is, teams are most likely to produce games that stand out and are recognized as outstanding when their cognitively heterogeneous communities have points of intersection. To test our hypothesis about structural folding and cognitive diversity, we study the historical mechanisms of team reassembly in the video game industry. We collected data on video games and the career histories of video game developers. Because we measure distinctiveness independently from critical acclaim, we can test whether teams with structural folds that span cognitively distant communities are able to develop distinctive products that are, at the same time, recognized as successful in the video gaming field.


  • Economic Sociology
  • Innovation and Invention
  • Other


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