Creativity has been widely recognized as critical to the economic success of organizations for over 60 years. Today, it is considered to be the most highly prized "commodity" of businesses. As such, there have been numerous efforts to better understand creativity with the goal of increasing individual creativity and therefore improving the economic success of organizations. An emerging area of research on creativity recognizes creativity as a complex, social process that is dependent upon many factors, including those of an environmental nature. In support of this perspective, a growing amount of research has investigated the effect of social networks on individual creativity. This relationship is based on the premise that an individual's social network affects access to diverse information, which in turn, is critical for creativity. The previous studies on this relationship, however, have been conducted in a limited number of environments, most of which have been knowledge-intensive in nature. As such, this study was conducted in a fast-food restaurant environment to determine whether the relationship between social networks and creativity is the same as in other, previously studied environments. Data was collected for a sample of 247 employees of an organization consisting of seven fast-food franchise restaurants of a popular fast-food restaurant chain in the northeast region of the United States. An ordinary least squares regression model was developed to investigate the relationship between creativity and the commonly studied social network variables: number of weak ties, number of strong ties, clustering, and centrality. The social network variables accounted for 17.3% of the overall variance in creativity, establishing that a relationship does exist between social networks and creativity in the fast-food restaurant environment. This relationship, however, was not as expected. In contrast to expectations, weak ties were not found to be a significant, positive predictor of creativity. Also, strong ties were found to be a significant, positive predictor of creativity, where it was expected that this relationship would be in the negative direction. Centrality, however, was found to be a significant, positive predictor of creativity, as expected, while the results for clustering were inconclusive due to its high correlation with the other social network variables in the study. As such, it appears that the relationship between social networks and creativity may be different in the fast-food restaurant environment when compared to environments previously studied. It is possible that this difference is a result of the differences between high and low knowledge-intensive working environments. The lack of support for weak ties as a significant positive predictor of creativity in conjunction with limited opportunities for significant creative achievement suggests that access to diverse information may be less important for creativity in the fast-food restaurant environment than in other environments. The findings that strong ties and centrality are significant, positive predictors of creativity, however, appear to indicate that the ability to implement a creative idea, however minor it may be, is more important in the fast-food restaurant environment than the generation of that idea in the first place. Due to the limitations of this study, however, it is not possible to definitively conclude this notion without efforts to determine which factor afforded by positions rich in strong ties or high in centrality, the informational benefits or the organizational influence, is more important for creativity.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Engineering and Computer Science
Industrial Engineering and Management Systems
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)
Rabinowitz, Mitchell, "Assessing the Effect of Social Networks on Employee Creativity in a Fast-Food Restaurant Environment" (2016). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 5624.