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Mathematicalistic Analysis of Broadway Collaboration Success

A 2005 study tried to use math techniques to analyze who was (and who will be) successful in building broadway shows:

Collaboration and Creativity: The Small World Problem,” Brian Uzzi [Northwestern University] and Jarrett Spiro [Stanford University then, INSEAD now], American Journal of Sociology, vol. 111, no. 2, September 2005.

The authors analyzed the small world network of the creative artists who made Broadway musicals from 1945 to 1989. Based on original arguments, new statistical methods, and tests of construct validity, they found that the varying “small world” properties of the systemic level network of these artists affected their creativity in terms of the financial and artistic performance of the musicals they produced…..

Hypothesis.—The relationship between a network’s small world typology and performance is U-shaped. Specifically, the financial and artistic success of a production increases at medium levels of [the small world quotient] Q and decreases at either low or high levels of Q. The financial and artistic success of a season of productions increases at medium levels of Q and decreases at either low or high levels of Q….

DATA AND METHODS: Our data include the population of all 2,092 people who worked on 474 musicals of new material produced for Broadway from 1945 to 1989….

DISCUSSION: Consistent with [our] prediction, about 90% of the new shows were flops from 1919 to 1930. By comparison, in the 1945–89 period, when Q was around the bliss point, about 75% of the shows were flops. Thus, these data and tests, while only circumstantial, corroborated the U-shaped relationship for periods beyond the one studied.

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