My research to date can be organized along the following main themes: (1) the social structure of creativity in art and science (2) technology entrepreneurship and the origins of breakthrough innovations (3) social networks, knowledge transfer and performance
The social structure of creativity – Over the past 5 years this has become a dominant theme in my research. My central claim in this work is that creativity does not occur in a vacuum, nor is it born in the minds of private individuals ex nihilo. Any moment in the production of creative work involves the reassembling and rearranging of pre-existing materials, practices, and influences and, in the end, it is society that decides which piece of work should be regarded as creative. Therefore, to understand creativity it is not enough to study the individuals typically associated with a novel product, new movement, or groundbreaking idea. To bring theoretical as well as empirical substance to this idea I have developed a framework that explains creativity as a product of both socio-structural conditions at the individual level and the social systems that evaluate individuals’ efforts. I have been testing these ideas in diverse empirical settings in the arts and sciences.
Technology entrepreneurship and the origins of breakthrough innovations – In this stream of research I focus on how entrepreneurs discover, make sense and commercialize major technological innovations. The work is complementary to our more extensive understanding of commercial innovation. I have been especially interested in the historical antecedents of entrepreneurial success and on the broader question of where do breakthrough innovations come from. My central claim here is that it is not possible to fully appreciate technological venturing without understanding the lasting effect that initial conditions have on the developmental course of new firms and technologies. I have examined the effects of these processes both empirically and conceptually in the context of microprocessor technology, and academic entrepreneurship in optoelectronics.
Social networks, knowledge transfer and performance – In this third line of research I study the causes and consequences of social relationships on a variety of performance outcomes, including the transfer of knowledge among individuals, the discovery end exploitation of new entrepreneurial opportunities, survival and firm growth. I have looked at these issues in contexts as diverse as the film industry, R&D labs and geographical clusters in the multimedia.