Formal organizations like firms are excellent at promoting cooperation, but knowledge communities - intellectually cohesive, organic interorganizational forms - are superior at fostering collaboration, arguably the most important process in innovation. Rather than focusing on what encourages performance in formal organizations, we study what characteristics encourage aggregate superior performance in informal knowledge communities in the technical field of computer science. To understand why some knowledge communities function better than others, we pioneer a methodology to identify key clusters that represent successful knowledge communities and explore the way breakout areas draw on past knowledge and use rhetoric. We find that successful knowledge communities in computer science draw from a broad range of sources and are extremely flexible in changing and adapting. In marked contrast, when using rhetoric, successful knowledge communities in computer science tend to use very similar vocabularies and language that does not move or adapt over time and is not unique or esoteric compared to the vocabulary of other communities. A better understanding of how interorganizational collaborative network structures encourage innovation is important to understanding what drives innovation and how to promote it.
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