Paul & Elisabeth Merage Foundation | Andre & Katherine Merage Foundation


David Obstfeld

David Obstfeld

Management Faculty

Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF)

Class Overview

Module Description:

Leveraging Networks for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This two-hour module will provide an efficient introduction to networks and relationship basics for driving innovation and entrepreneurial startups – and will set the stage for a more in-depth day-long examination of networks in the second week.  Drawing on recent advances in social network research, the module will first explore how networks work in terms of the advantages of different network structures and then how to employ social skill within those networks to innovate in terms of new products, processes, and services.  As part of this module’s network theme, we will also explore the ability to build and maintain relationships in terms of trust, with people who matter now and those that may matter in the future.



  1. “Jerry Sanders” Harvard Business School Case 9-498-021, by Diane M. Burton & Katherine Lawrence, Harvard Business School Publishing.
  2. “How to Build Your Network” by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap 

The instruction will be organized in three segments:

1:00 – 1:45 Interactive lecture: Networks, networking, and trust

  • Understanding and leveraging social network structure and process
  • Network structure basics – open vs closed, big vs. small, the importance of the broker between worlds
  • Networking process and social skill:
    1. three basic kinds of network coordination (connecting, separating, knowledge transfer)
    2. moving knowledge through transfer, translation, and transformation
  • Understanding and leveraging the distinction between routine and non-routine (i.e., creative project) innovation
  • Building Trust
    • Advantages and challenges of building trust across contexts, in startups
    • Key factors: perceived uncertainty, perceived vulnerability
    • Three qualities of individual trustworthiness: 1) ability; 2) integrity; 3) benevolence

1:45 – 2:45: Jerry Sander Case: The Jerry Sanders case recounts how an Israeli entrepreneur entered the U.S. medical devices industry rapidly transformed a technology concept into a viable startup, X-Cardia, by orchestrating networks and knowledge.  We will discuss the social skill Jerry Sanders brings to the table, how he built a successful organization in the medical devices field, and attracted a critical mass of investors.

2:45 – 3:00 pm

Wrap up and conclusion

  • Take Aways: 1) Identify shared interests and higher purposes; 2) think about what you can give, 3) focus on learning and long range success
  • Making skillful, engaged networking a habit