Fame Is Based More On The Company You Keep Than Your Creativity

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Research from Columbia Business School reveals social networks are a more reliable predictor of fame than one’s creativity.

NEW YORK,┬áMarch 12, 2019┬á/PRNewswire/ — Many of the world’s most creative people (think┬áThomas Edison,┬áPablo Picasso, and┬áSteve Jobs) often achieve great fame. But does creativity alone translate into critical acclaim? New research by┬áPaul Ingram, Kravis Professor of Business at┬áColumbia Business School, finds that there’s another factor at play: social networks.

Columbia Business School Logo (PRNewsFoto/Columbia Business School)

In the paper, “Fame as an Illusion of Creativity: Evidence from the Pioneers of Abstract Art,” Ingram and co-author┬áMitali Banerjee┬áof HEC Paris,┬áexamine the link between fame, creativity, and social networks. By focusing on the implications of social ties on the level of fame achieved by 90 pioneering abstract artists (rather than famous scientists, musicians, or filmmakers) the researchers were able to determine how peer relationships facilitate individual-level creative output, rather than team output.

Contrary to conventional literature, Banerjee and Ingram found that there was no statistical support for the relationship between an artist’s creativity and the fame they ultimately achieved. Neither an expert measure of creativity, nor a computational measure of an artist’s novelty, calculated through machine learning, mediated the relationship between an artist’s local network structure and their fame.

Furthermore, the researchers found that those individuals who possessed a diverse set of personal friends and professional contacts from different industries were statistically more likely to become famous. Those who had influential networks that overlapped or were more homogenous were, on the other hand, less likely to achieve wide-reaching fame.

For more information, please read the┬átwo-page research brief (PDF)┬ácompiled by┬áColumbia Business School’s┬áJerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business.

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