A few years ago Susan helped key executives sort and analyze 3 months of calendar and email transactions. In most cases, executives maintained very insular networks–that is, they spent most of their time with and communicating with a very, very small set of people. It’s easy to do. Time constraints prevent most of us from interacting beyond those in our close networks. Many leaders tell is that during the pandemic external networking has dropped even further.
What Makes a Network?
Mark Granovetter, Sociology Professor at Stanford, describes it this way: ‘the strength of an interpersonal tie is a combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie’. Our networks are comprised of strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are those people with whom you share a body of shared experience. This is not to say we don’t need Strong Ties. Connections characterized by time and intimacy are very important for emotional health. But we also need Weak Ties to expand our overall pools of ideas and options.
Weak Ties help Innovation
Granovetter found that more numerous weak ties can be important in seeking information and innovation. Cliques have a tendency to have more homogeneous opinions as well as share many common traits…being similar, each member of the clique would also know more or less what the other members knew. To find new information or insights, members of the clique will have to look beyond the clique to its other friends and acquaintances. This is what Granovetter called the “the strength of weak ties”.