SOURCE: MIT Sloan Management Review

MIT Sloan Management Review

June 02, 2015 08:00 ET

New Research: Employees Using Twitter Contribute Better Ideas at Work

Study Also Finds Link Between the Amount of Diversity in an Employee’s Twitter Network and the Quality of Ideas

CAMBRIDGE, MA--(Marketwired - June 02, 2015) - Research findings from an article published today in MIT Sloan Management Review indicate that, of workplace ideas submitted by employees, the ideas of Twitter users were rated significantly more positively by other employees and experts than the ideas of non-users. Researchers also found that there was a positive relationship between the amount of diversity in one's Twitter network and the quality of ideas submitted.

The article, titled "How Twitter Users Can Generate Better Ideas," was written by Salvatore Parise of Babson College, Eoin Whelan of NUI Galway's J.E. Cairnes School of Business & Economics and Steve Todd of EMC Corporation. The researchers used organizational network analysis to analyze employees' Twitter network structures, and ratings, votes and surveys to evaluate employees' ideas.

In analyzing how Twitter use drives better ideas, the researchers focused on the concepts of "idea scouting" and "idea connecting." In an earlier paper the authors had defined an idea scout an as employee who looks outside the organization to bring in new ideas; an idea connector is someone who can assimilate the external ideas and find opportunities within the organization to implement these new concepts. In this study, the researchers found that Twitter users who performed the two roles at the same time were the most innovative.

Employees used Twitter to become idea scouts by building the diversity of their network -- following thought leaders outside their own industry or area, including in their network people whose ideas challenged their own, continually pruning and adjusting their network and forming real life relationships out of those they built on Twitter.

People used Twitter to become idea connectors by building their roles as listener, curator, and alerter. They put their own analysis and interpretation on what they learned, and filtered and disseminated that information throughout their organizations. Some of them took it upon themselves to train their colleagues through webinars and one-on-one or small group sessions on how to use the platform effectively.

Management researchers have long known that "a diverse network provides exposure to people from different fields who behave and think differently than us. Good ideas emerge when the new information received is combined with what we already know." The research suggests that social networks like Twitter provide just that sort of diverse network.

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