Thursday, 4 October 2007

Weak, Strong and Nodding ties

Let's face it, the hottest topic at the moment is social (and business) networking. I was surprised to learn that such social networking had been the subject of academic research as far back as the 1940s - well before the internet, with sociologists like Mark Granovetter writing articles on the subject. I was alerted to this by an excellent article by Shiv Singh Click here .

Shiv wrote:
"Granovetter (1973) argued that within a social network, weak ties are more powerful than strong ties. He explained that this was because information was far more likely to be “diffused” through weaker ties. He concluded that weak ties are “indispensable to individuals’ opportunities and to their incorporation into communities while strong ties breed local cohesion.”

Granovetter’s doctoral thesis demonstrated that most people landed jobs thanks to their weak ties and not their strong ones. It was the people that they did not know well, the ones with whom they did not have shared histories and did not see on a regular basis who were of most help. This is because people with strong ties generally share the same pieces of information and resources. Therefore they are of less help to one another.

Similarly, Granovetter identified absent ties (also called nodding ties) – those ties that lack the emotional intensity, time, intimacy and reciprocity to even qualify as weak ties. Someone living on the same street that you nod to everyday is an absent tie. An absent tie is someone that exists in your life but with whom you have no connection whatsoever. That person is not helpful in the way that a weak tie can be."

The relevance of this is its importance to the current debate on the importance of social (or in the corporate world) business networking. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and FaceBook are really very good at "weak ties". Just look at your own "Friends" on such sites...the vast majority are not particularly good friends at ll. Indeed they are acquaintances that we have picked up at various "events" at various times in our lives. What Garnovetter says is that it is these "weak links" that are the MOST important for us in finding jobs, information, business references etc.

I have to say that this is exactly what I have found. A classic example would be this very article. It came about because I have a "Friend" on Facebook called Susan Scrupski. Susan is a renowned US analyst on our sector who I knew well in the 1990s but have had no contact with since. This changed when we found each other on Facebook. Susan is now into all things Web 2.0. To read Susan's blog Click here. Susan pointed me to the Singh article after a dialogue on Facebook. Susan is the classic "weak tie". I am getting huge benefit each day from the "weak ties" I have established on Facebook. Corporates have to face up to the huge opportunities they can obtain by allowing their 'knowledge employees' to foster weak ties in the work environment.


susan scrupski said...

Hey Richard. Nice tie ;-)

Be a good blogger now and don't forget your link love for Shiv's report on the boxes and arrows site that I sent you, and of course, my blog.

For more hot tips on blogging, see this link:

susan scrupski said...

Oh, my bad. Sorry. You confused me with that "click here." I see the link now to Shiv's report. Hope his professors are reading...!

Richard Holway said...

Delighted. I have added a link to your blog in the post