Research co-authored by NUI Galway lecturer says employees with diverse Twitter network develop better ideas

New research suggests that employees with a diverse Twitter network that exposes them to people and ideas they do not already know tend to generate better ideas. 

Dr Eoin Whelan, lecturer at the J E Cairnes School of Business and Economics at NUI Galway, co-authored the research which has just been published in the prestigious MIT Sloan Management Review. 

The research drew on a five year programme of research conducted to understand the impacts of technology-mediated networks enabled by social platforms on employee innovation.

The study asked what makes people come up with their best ideas. Steve Jobs instructed the architect of Pixar Animations new headquarters to design physical space that encouraged staff to get out of their offices and mingle with one another, particularly with people they would typically not interact.

Jobs was an avid believer that serendipitous exchanges fueled innovation. Even in this age of digital interaction, something Jobs was obviously a huge part of, she knew that there was nothing as effective as face to face communication in the generation of ideas. 

A multitude of empirical studies have proven Jobs to be correct: a diverse network of connections provides exposure to people from different fields who behave and think differently, and good ideas emerge when the new information received is combined with what a person already knows.

In today’s digitally obsessed world, many relationships are formed and maintained online through public social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. As a result, employees are using such platforms for work related purposes.   

In coming to their conclusion, researchers studied ten employee groups across five companies in a range of industries. They analysed hundreds of ideas submitted by employees as part of their internal idea management system and correlated that behavior with Twitter usage.

The study found that Twitter users and non users generally generate the same number of ideas. However, the ideas suggested by Twitter users were rated significantly more positively by other employees and experts than those of non users.

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