NewslettersNovember 9th, 2021

PG #94: Weak ties, strong ideas

Roya Azadi
Roya Azadi, Strategy Director
Three speech bubbles overlap. each bubble has a different landscape in it: One sky, one mountains and one river. In the centre of all three is a city landscape

I’ve missed many things over the last year and a half, but the thing I’m secretly happiest to have back are the ‘stop-and-chats’ with third tier friends; the people I would normally only bump into. Often at the cafe, or on some stretch of my local main street. I love to have a chat — not too long, not too short — with those people to find out what’s new in their world. I might not know what their last name is and I probably don’t have their phone number, but I’ve missed them. My very best acquaintances.

Unlike my third tiers, my closest friends and I occupy the same cultural corner. We scroll through the same news, walk similar streets, follow similar institutions. But my best acquaintances? They’re different. They introduce me to new people, new books, and new ideas. And as someone who works in innovation, a new idea is a very precious thing.

The official name for what I’m talking about is the Marshall-Arrow-Romer (MAR) spillover effect, a concept that sits in the centre of the weak tie theory’s venn diagram. This theory claims that it is your second or third tier circle who will introduce to you the opportunities you seek, but can’t find within your comfort zone.

The innovation-obsessed tech world states that the more physically proximate a workplace is to another, the faster knowledge travels between them; which in turn, facilitates innovation and growth. The greater the closeness, the greater the spillover. Or in other words — the more bump-ins at your local cafe, the more opportunities for new ideas.

What has happened to the speed of idea exchange and innovation while we’ve all been stuck at home? What will happen now that Australia is opening back up? What if our social skills have devolved?

Over the last year I’ve been researching the psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy of coming up with ideas in my book, ‘How to be a Creative Thinker’. So, if you’ve decided to abandon all social obligations to your weak ties moving ahead, there are still many other proven methodologies for supporting idea generation.

I’d love to hear your own reflections on how you feel about creativity in your personal life or at your workplace now that you’ve been unleashed back into society. Please get in touch via LinkedIn.

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