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Networking & The Strength of Weak Links

by Rick Baker
On Oct 13, 2010
You have a network of people connections.
 
Some of those connections are strong and some are weak.
 
Your strong connections include your family and your friends. Strong connections contain special significance and they exist over long periods of time. As the saying goes “blood is thicker than water”, so strong connections are thicker than weak connections.
 
Strong Connections are considered the Strong Links of your network.
 
Your weak connections are occasional and unplanned: some of them happen by sheer coincidence.
 
Weak Connections are considered the Weak Links of your network.
 
The Strength of Weak Links: that is a phrase used by Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood in their new book titled ‘SUPERCONNECT, Harnessing the Power of Networks and The Strength of Weak Links’.
 
How can there be Strength in Weak Links?
 
The answer to that questions starts with Mark Granovetter, who attended Princeton and Harvard. His research paper titled ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’ was published in 1973. In that paper, he concluded weak ties or links are often much more valuable than strong ties. Here is how Koch and Lockwood explain Granovetter’s puzzling conclusion:
 
“Granovetter said that people with whom we spend little time can frequently be far more useful to us than those we see every day, those with whom we have intimate and intense relationships, those who actively try to help us.” He also argued that weak ties between acquaintances or strangers are more important to society that the strong ties of friendship.” How could this be?
 
Put simply, his argument is as follows. Our close friends tend to be similar to us and mainly move in the same social circles. Close friends operate in a dense network, what Granovetter called a ‘closely knit clump of social structure’, where most people know each other and share the same information.”
 
and
 
“The weak tie between the individual and his acquaintance ‘therefore becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends…It follows, then, that individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends’.” [the part in italics is an excerpt from Granovetter’s paper]
 
Here’s a link to Granovetter.
 
Question: Have you every experienced absolute surprise when a relationship that started from sheer coincidence turned into something truly amazing?
 
Bottom line: maybe it is a good idea to keep our minds open to new relationships…and, keep our doors open…and our phone lines, our BlackBerrys, our desktops, our mail boxes, our…

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Networking: The Joys of Connection

Comments (1) -

Rick Baker Canada
10/17/2010 10:46:32 AM #

I am relaying this comment for one of our e-zine subscribers...

"I am a total fan of 'weak links', not having any family close by.  The only downside is seasonal holidays when all your weak links migrate to "their" strong links.  I had often heard this, but this was the first time I had the background to the reasoning and logic behind it.  Thanks for the extra insight behind it."

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