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Is “Weaker is Better” the new “Less is More”?

We often acknowledge the people that impact our lives on a large scale. We think quickly of family members, significant others, best friends – the people we love and care the most about. Very rarely do we correlate “large personal impact” with “distant acquaintance.” But this Forbes article by Jacob Morgan shows that these acquaintances could actually lead us to more opportunity and success than our dear, lovely friends.

Tell me it ain’t so! But it is. In the article, Morgan highlights an important note about strong ties: they are difficult to maintain and they usually require some common denominator between the two. Of course, your strong tie to one person could likely introduce you to that person’s strong ties and so on, but then what you get is a large, homogeneous group. In other words: you share some common factor with person A, and that person likely shares those factors with person B – making you and person B compatible, and so on. You could meet several people through person A, but will you gain any new opportunities through this networking? Probably not as much as you could through a weak tie.

Recall in class that all local bridges are weak ties. These local bridges that we make – say a connection with a co-worker in a different department – introduces us to a network that we do not share a lot with. We are introduced to a network that features people different from ourselves. Why is this important? We gain information about new people, about new opportunities, new projects, etc that the homogeneous network of strong ties might never have known because everybody works in one department.

Connect this information back to class about connected components and local bridges. You could be part of connected component A, where everybody works in the Engineering department, but maybe you are interested in project managing. An engineer in A might have information to share, but chances are a project manager in connected component B has more valuable information on how it works, what the job entails, and potential new job offerings. When you have a link to somebody in B, then you have access to their component. The more weak ties you create, the more components you connect together and the bigger your network becomes. More importantly, the more diverse your network becomes.

So next time you seek an opportunity that isn’t really in your expertise, don’t go looking for the obvious people next to you. Look for those who might not know what you know, but could also know what you don’t know. Turns out, “weaker is better” just might be the new “less is more.”

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September 2018