Jessica Methot, an associate professor of human resource management at Rutgers University, studies these relationships, which most of other researchers overlook. She has found that this large, bland body of colleagues we probably can’t name (and who can’t name us) in fact plays a crucial role in innovation and productivity.
“Asking acquaintances for input is likely to elicit a broader and more diverse set of perspectives” than talking to friends alone, Methot says. This makes sense: the people you’ve chosen as your friends are more likely to think the way you do, and less likely to spot what you’ve overlooked. We also may be more inclined to experiment with new ideas around people we don’t know that well.”