Innovation Networks

In recent conversations about innovation, the idea seems spreading that innovation takes place "on the edges of the network" (Ito, 2012). Edges are clearly not used here in the same sense as in graph theory (as the connections between nodes). Here, it is rather used in the sense that a group of people with a specialized type of knowledge can be seen as a (sub-)network with an edge, a boundary that 'touches' other boundaries. To give an example from science: it was such an edge between biologists and chemists that gave rise to many novel research possibilities in what we now call the 'life sciences'. Intuitively, I imagine such kind of collaboration between 'knowledge networks' more as a kind of overlap (or intersection, to use a term from logic), but in the organizational world the terms edges (the most adaptive parts of a sub-network) and core (the most rigid part, that is least connected to the outside world) seem to have prevailed.

Innovation clearly is a concept that is used primarily to describe the human domain. What I would like to ask from you is: are there examples from other domains where the parts of a network that connect most to the outside world are most adaptive (in some sense) and where there is a central area that is most rigid?


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