Opportunity, Status, and Similarity: Exploring the Varied Antecedents and Outcomes of Category Spanning Innovation

Tyler Wry, Management Department, The Wharton School, and Adam Castor, Sung Kyun Kwan University

in From Categories to Categorization: Studies in Sociology, Organizations and Strategy at the Crossroads (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Volume 51) Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 355-389

Abstract:  Studies have shown that actors who affiliate with multiple categories generally do so at their own peril. Still, category spanning is routinely observed, although it is less understood. We address this gap by a longitudinal study of category spanning among nanotube technology inventors. Our results highlight the importance of the evolving structure of category relationships, actor embeddedness within the structure, and interactions with other factors, including the attractiveness of related categories. When a category is relationally similar to others, associated inventors are more likely to engage in category spanning, whereas when a category is dissimilar, inventors are more likely to remain within it.

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.