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Networks, Diversity, and Productivity: The Social Capital of Corporate R&D Teams

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  • Ray Reagans

    (Carnegie Mellon University, Graduate School of Industrial Administration, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213)

  • Ezra W. Zuckerman

    (Stanford University, Graduate School of Business, 518 Memorial Way, Stanford, California 94305)

Abstract

We argue that the debate regarding the performance implications of demographic diversity can be usefully reframed in terms of the network variables that reflect distinct forms of social capital. Scholars who are pessimistic about the performance of diverse teams base their view on the hypothesis that decreased network density—the average strength of the relationship among team members—lowers a team's capacity for coordination. The optimistic view is founded on the hypothesis that teams that are characterized by high network heterogeneity, whereby relationships on the team cut across salient demographic boundaries, enjoy an enhanced learning capability. We test each of these hypotheses directly and thereby avoid the problematic assumption that they contradict one another. Our analysis of data on the social networks, organizational tenure, and productivity of 224 corporate R…D teams indicates that both network variables help account for team productivity. These findings support a recasting of the diversity-performance debate in terms of the network processes that are more proximate to outcomes of interest.

Suggested Citation

  • Ray Reagans & Ezra W. Zuckerman, 2001. "Networks, Diversity, and Productivity: The Social Capital of Corporate R&D Teams," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 12(4), pages 502-517, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:12:y:2001:i:4:p:502-517
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.12.4.502.10637
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    References listed on IDEAS

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