How knowledge brokers emerge and evolve: The role of actors’ behaviour
This article investigates how actors positioned in a network can evolve as knowledge brokers, as well as how they act to develop new brokerage roles. Our focus is on actor's behaviour while previous studies concentrate more on the structural and positional determinants of brokerage roles. This research combines brokerage roles with a broker's functions in an exploratory study of a small Italian comics publishing house. Over 20 years, the firm played different brokerage roles involving different actors at national and international levels. We find that if all brokerage roles involve transcoding functions, the ability to overcome transcoding obstacles, through the use of shared imprinting with receiving partners, could be useful for developing any brokerage role. Moreover, heterogeneity in the competences and industry experience of hired members of the management team could support the development of new brokerage roles, with differentiated effects on various brokers’ functions. If a brokerage role involves new actors with no previous allegiance, the status of the broker, signalled through network relations, can have significant impacts by indirectly communicating its superior knowledge. The proposed, emerging theoretical framework has direct implications for studies of knowledge brokers and innovation in social networks, as well as for entrepreneurship research.
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