Labor market identity and professional networks have been two important pillars for understanding creative careers advancing outside of organizational boundaries. Despite the fact that identity and networks are closely related, the related fields have been advancing in parallel while engaging in their own debates. In the present paper, the author joins these areas together by arguing that labor market identity—determined by the level of similarity among projects on which creative workers have worked previously—and network structure—determined by the extent to which collaborators have closely worked with each other—are complementary for creative workers to achieve success with novelty-seeking audiences. The author tests this hypothesis by drawing on the careers of songwriters pursuing freelance careers in the Korean popular music (K-pop) industry. Specifically, the author finds that a focused identity of K-pop songwriters is associated with a greater likelihood of commercial success only when they have a cohesive network. When they have a sparse network filled with many structural holes, a focus in their identity decreases the chance of success, suggesting that the match between a diffused identity and a sparse network, or a focused identity and a cohesive network, is integral to creative workers’ success.
About the Speaker
Yonghoon Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Management at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). In his research, he studies entrepreneurial careers in which people need to actively craft their identity and cultivate networks to survive and succeed—like the careers of creative artists, professionals, and, of course, those in academia. In particular, he is interested in how people create, maintain, and change their identities and networks to adapt to the predicaments of their career, including uncertainty, competition, stratification, and deepening inequality. Yonghoon got his Ph.D. in Organisational Behaviour at INSEAD. Before that, he studied for BE & BBA, and MS at Korea University.