Investigating the role of social capital in innovation: sparse versus dense network

Salma Alguezaui (e‐Business Management School, Scuola Superiore ISUFI, Università del Salento, Lecce, Italy)
Raffaele Filieri (Department of Marketing and Management, Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland, and is Research Fellow at the Dipartimento di Sociologia e Comunicazione, Università degli Studi di Roma “La Sapienza”, Rome, Italy)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 26 October 2010



The purpose of this paper is to analyze the literature on social capital and its contribution to innovation performance.


Through an intensive review of the literature, the paper first analyzes the origin of the concept of social capital. It then explains the contribution of social capital within the organization and management studies. Further, social capital is considered the facilitator of knowledge search and knowledge sharing activities, which are considered of capital importance to innovation outcomes. Further, the paper clarifies the implications of social capital to two types of innovation: radical vs incremental innovation. Finally, the paper analyzes the structural dimension of social capital by focusing on the contribution of two different configurations and their effect on innovation: sparse vs cohesive networks.


The paper contributes to the literature by uncovering the positive, but also the negative, drawbacks of social capital. Moreover, the paper focuses on the structural dimension of social capital and it discusses the controversial results of two different configurations of social capital (sparse vs cohesive networks) to the innovation performance.


This paper provides a comprehensive literature review on both the positive and negative effects of social capital on innovation performance. The paper links social capital to the new innovation model, emphasizing the importance of social capital to knowledge search and sharing activities, and then to the innovation process. The authors suggest investigating the contribution of social capital according to firms' innovation scopes.



Alguezaui, S. and Filieri, R. (2010), "Investigating the role of social capital in innovation: sparse versus dense network", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 14 No. 6, pp. 891-909.

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