Bridging The Gap: Boundary Spanners' Selective Network Mobilization

Valentina Tartari, Anne L. J. Ter Wal, Balint Dioszegi, Maureen McKelvey

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Network boundary spanners have been shown to be in a privileged position to generate innovation outcomes, yet it is unclear how they decide which contacts to rely on when. This paper posits that many boundary spanners will forgo the opportunities their structural position affords, as stronger identification with one of the two domains they span may lead them to predominantly mobilize network contacts in that domain, irrespective of the type of input specific situations may require. We argue that those with a high self-monitoring orientation, however, will overcome tendencies to have identity inform network choices, and will thus selectively mobilize contacts from both sides of the boundary. We test these predictions in the context of scientists with dedicated boundary-spanning roles between industry and academia who are expected to routinely draw on network resources on both sides of the "divide" to perform their jobs. Using a multi-study setup which includes two framed field experiments, we find support for our predictions. Our findings imply that it may not be sufficient for organizations seeking to promote the cross-fertilization of ideas to allocate individuals to boundary-spanning roles; they need to train and encourage their staff to identify with the domains at both sides of the boundary to enable selective network mobilization to help them leverage the potential from boundary spanning.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Eighty-second Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management
EditorsSonja Taneja
Number of pages1
Place of PublicationBriarcliff Manor, NY
PublisherAcademy of Management
Publication date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022
EventThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022: Creating a Better World Together - Seattle, United States
Duration: 5 Aug 20229 Aug 2022
Conference number: 82


ConferenceThe Academy of Management Annual Meeting 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address
SeriesAcademy of Management Proceedings

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