Francesco Ramella, Carlo Trigilia

Strong and weak ties in the social construction of inventions

  • Abstract

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The generative mechanisms of innovation have rarely been studied, especially in Economic sociology. The article addresses this issue relying on extensive research carried out on Italian inventors. The aim is to outline their profile and activities, conceiving their inventions as the outcome of a process of social construction. The research is based on a multidimensional approach that brings together the individual, the relational and the contextual dimensions that structure the inventive process. Three distinct social worlds emerge from the analysis: the high tech world and the machinery worlds of high and low institutionalization. Each of these social worlds has different protagonists, specializations, organizational modes, territorial bases, and different relations with local development. The study also shows some points of theoretical relevance: the relational and dialogical characters of inventions and the influence of organizational variables. The new economic sociology has highlighted the role of social networks in innovation, stressing the importance of weak ties and interorganizational relations. Our research, however, underlines that different types of ties are complementary: strong and weak, internal and external, local and extra local. For the success of inventive activities, in fact, it is essential using different resources and skills, keeping together both "mechanisms generative of cohesion" and "mechanisms generative of variety".

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