The rate at which new ideas are generated is directly related to the effort invested in enriching social networks.
Says Chris Trimble in his Fast Company column:
"Entrepreneurs believe in the power of networking. Many are very good at it. They become good because they recognize that most people with interesting notions usually have only one piece of a puzzle. Often unexpected combinations of ideas, or chance meetings of people with complimentary perspectives, ignite genuine breakthroughs.
"Aspiring innovators from large companies are handicapped in the networking game — not because they lack skill, but because of the nature of their jobs. Once a business is proven and profitable, the name of the game is to make operations as efficient as possible. Employees at all levels are pulled into ever more specialized roles. Repeated tasks are joined together by rigorously documented processes. As a result, each manager’s web of connections increasingly mirrors the way today’s work is organized. Most connections are with managers with closely related specialties, who share similar perspectives, shaped by the demands of the same customers."
There is one other point Chris - I call it the "closing of the corporate mind". It's not just about people being comforatble with the status quo. It's about people hiring and surrounding themselves with their own kind. A tribal thing, perhaps? So the desis hang out with the desis, the Chinese with the Chinese, the Hicks with the Hicks, the golf-playing execs with other golf-playing execs, repugs with repugs, etc.
Trimble also mentions the "vast differences between communication networks and trust networks. Communication networks are the kind that are useful at the front-end of the innovation process because they enable the sharing of ideas. The back-end of the innovation process depends on trust networks, which require much heavier investments in time, energy, and goodwill.
Still boils down to people and trust, people! Put a value on that Mr. CFO Bean-Counter!