Cover of Getting New Things Done by David Obstfeld
Getting New Things Done
Networks, Brokerage, and the Assembly of Innovative Action
David Obstfeld


272 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804760508
Ebook ISBN: 9781503603097

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Excerpts and More

Our networks—and how we work them—create vital ties that bind. Organizations recognize and reward this fact by leaning ever more heavily on collaboration, particularly when it comes to getting new things done. This book offers a framework that explains how innovators use network processes to broker knowledge and mobilize action.

How well they do so directly influences the outcome of attempts to innovate, especially when a project is not tied to prescribed organizational routines. An entrepreneur launches a business. A company rolls out a new product line. Two firms form a partnership. These instances and many more like them dot today's business landscape. And yet, we understand little about the social dimension of these undertakings. Disentangling brokerage from network structure and building on his theoretical work regarding tertius iungens, David Obstfeld explains how actors with diverse interests, expertise, and skills leverage their personal and intellectual connections to create new ventures and products with extraordinary results.

About the author

David Obstfeld is Associate Professor of Management in The Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University, Fullerton. His research examines knowledge-intensive, network-based social processes that result in organizational change and innovation. Previously, he served as Director of Training and Development at The Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae).

"Getting New Things Done illuminates the invisible, relational work of orchestrating knowledge and network processes central to innovation. Taking no shortcuts, Obstfeld's scholarly tour de force is eminently readable and truly practical. It is a must-read for academics and professionals who are interested in audacious innovation."

—Amy C. Edmondson, Harvard Business School, author of Building the Future: Big Teaming for Audacious Innovation

"Obstfeld gets to the heart of unpacking how real work gets done. In this wonderfully textured blend of ethnography and analytics, he lays out a rich foundation for knowledge articulation and powerful extensions to our understanding of networks and brokerage. Both advances are more relevant than ever as we are increasingly moving to the project-based work Obstfeld describes in our networked, fast-paced world. This work establishes a crucial conceptual foundation for understanding the new world of exponential changes we are now navigating."

—John Seely Brown, Former Chief Scientist, Xerox Corporation and co-author of The Social Life of Information and Pragmatic Imagination

"This is a fascinating, elegantly written book. Its prodigious novelty demonstrates Obstfeld's unique ability to teach us about innovation. It is exceptionally rich in the way it combines multiple intellectual traditions and grounds them in close ethnographic observation. The focus on process alongside network structure is cutting edge and sets a new research agenda for those interested in getting new things done."

—Steve Borgatti, University of Kentucky and President, International Network for Social Network Analysis

"For too long students of networks and innovation have focused on structure at the expense of understanding process. This book offers a major correction. It lays out a compelling theory of brokerage and demonstrates how not only structure, but also skills around knowledge transfer and articulation, are essential for innovation in creative projects."

—Paul Leonardi, Duca Family Professor of Technology Management at UC Santa Barbara and author of Car Crashes Without Cars and Technology Choices

"Building on the award-winning work for which he is best known, Obstfeld explains how tertius iungens and knowledge articulation drive innovation in the presence—and absence—of organizational routines. This book's novel theory—rooted in already impactful organizational scholarship—deepens our understanding of networks and brokerage in particular."

—Philip C. Anderson, INSEAD