An Alter-Centric Perspective on Employee Innovation: The Importance of Alters’ Creative Self-Efficacy and Network Structure

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While most social network studies of employee innovation behavior examine the focal employees’ (“egos’”) network structure, we employ an alter-centric perspective to study the personal characteristics of employees’ network contacts—their “alters”—to better understand employee innovation. Specifically, we examine how the creative self-efficacy (CSE) and innovation behavior of employees’ social network contacts affects their ability to generate and implement novel ideas. Hypotheses were tested using a sample of 144 employees in a U.S.-based product development organization. We find that the average CSE of alters in an employee’s problem solving network is positively related to that employee’s innovation behavior, with this relationship being mediated by these alters’ average innovation behavior. The relationship between the alters’ average innovation behavior and the employee’s own innovation behavior is strengthened when these alters have less dense social networks. Post hoc results suggest that having network contacts with high levels of CSE also leads to an increase in ego’s personal CSE 1 year later in cases where the employee’s initial level of CSE was relatively low. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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