I ran into Egils Milberg, the executive director of the state Economic Development Commission, at Starbucks today and as usual he had a great observation.
He is looking for some measure for the amount of network capital individuals or organizations have. Network capital would measure how much a person or company is working with or talking to people outside their own organization.
Egils has a national reputation in the field of innovation and economic development. I think his notion is that innovation comes from interactions between networks of people working in similar industries but for different companies or or in different occupations. They expose each other to new ways or thinking or new ideas which lead to creative solutions and help get themselves out of the same old rut in their thinking.
A measure of network capital could be something as simple as the percentage of e-mails you send that are outside of your organization or the amount of time you spend outside of your office working with other organizations.
This notion is definitely relevant to economic development. But it also makes sense in my small niche in the world. Running a legislative office, one of the characteristics I would like to see in staff people is the ability to learn things from people outside their normal routine. To get exposed to new ideas and hopefully develop new solutions that would not see in their normal everyday routine. Ideas are the lifeblood of politics and right now it sure looks like we are short of them.