Shrouded in Structure: Challenges and Opportunities for a Friction-Based View of Network Research

Lori Rosenkopf, Management, The Wharton School, and Anindya Ghosh, Tilburg University

Abstract: Whereas network ideas and approaches have become prominent in both the managerial and sociological literatures, we contend that the increasing emphasis on network structures and their evolution has distracted us from the important issue of whether and when networks actually work in the ways that our theories assume. In particular, we explore the well-established assumption that knowledge flows over network paths, with special attention to the role of friction when the supposed information transfer spans multiple dyads. Our analysis shows that friction is omnipresent and has implications at both the system and subsystem levels. More specifically, we present a rich set of research opportunities that addresses implications of friction for the variation of knowledge flows for different network structures and also for the distribution of knowledge among the actors within a particular network.

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