Ming the Mechanic:
Structural Holes

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Structural Holes2004-06-17 16:02
by Flemming Funch

David Teten writes on Online Business Blog.
You will usually benefit if the members of your network do not know one another. Ronald Burt, in his innovative and influential book, Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition, provides fascinating support for the argument that both people and companies benefit by sitting in a “structural hole” of a network. A structural hole exists when there is only a weak connection between two clusters of densely connected people.

For example, let us say you are the head of German country sales for Hasbro, Inc., a major manufacturer of games and toys. Your value to Hasbro is as a pipeline to the German market. It is in your interest to build relationships with many people in both Hasbro headquarters and in the German market. You fill a structural hole between those two groups. In order to preserve that structural hole, we recommend you should probably not introduce the two pools of people (the American Hasbro toy-sellers and the German toy-buyers).
I suppose that is traditional wisdom of job-security, applied to social networks. But I think that, as a general philosophy, that sucks big time. You try to deliberately keep the people from talking to each other that would most benefit from talking to each other, by making yourself the networking tollbooth.

Oh, I think most people do it in one way or another. Most people have their job because somebody somehow believes that they're needed for it. And if we're talking about knowledge work, or about the work of connecting some people over here with some people over there - then your job security might easily seem a little fragile. So, one easily gets into keeping some key pieces of information secret, so that nobody will be inspired to cut you out of the loop. Doesn't make it right, though.

In my ideal world, it would be the people who actually make the most difference who'd have the best job security. Not the people who pretend they're invaluable, simply because they hide part of the picture from everybody else. But, alas, society doesn't really work that way. You get paid by making somebody feel they have to pay you, not particularly by doing great work.

Although, the people who actually have figured out the system are doing the opposite. I.e. getting themselves out of the loop, rather than trying to seem like an invaluable link. I'm talking about the people who make businesses, as opposed to trying to hold a job and appear like a good employee. The trick is just how to engineer that most of us possibly might end up being so skilled or lucky.

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18 Jun 2004 @ 01:03 by maxtobin : Ahh The Humble doorman
Do not forget the value of the doorperson. Most often one would/should create an agreement that rewarded this person for the duration of the resulting relationship. Seems fair to me, then the door person gets on with the task of 'seeing' other valuable connections. I am in the process of doing this right now, with a tool that has been developed to fault find network connectivity in a cheap scalable way accross the various networks (copper, fiber and wireless). We know we have a limited window to penetrate the market place, so the more doors we open most quickly, the more reward. Seems reasonable! Anyone want to stand on the other side of the door? You will need good networks in the telco/service provider arena.  

18 Jun 2004 @ 01:28 by ming : Doorman
Doormen can be very valuable. Is great when they can be rewarded for seeing relationships that nobody else is seeing, and sharing that information. Connecting people who ought to be connected is getting increasingly valuable.  

23 Dec 2014 @ 10:21 by Cassie @ : rDxzweDUXnXiQzKbp
While I do not agree with your political psiitoon I too will be sitting the 2012 presidential election out. I will go to the polls but not vote for either the Democratic or Republican candidate deserves my vote. This country need a viable multiple party system and by that I mean more than two parties.In my opinion President Obama is incompetent. In 2008-2010 he squandered the chance he had to show leadership on a more liberal and moral addenda. Instead he rushed to get in bed with corporate interests. Romney is a con man. Essentially his addenda is a minor rehash of policies that go us into this bad economic situation. I am reminded that one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So someone who is trying to sell such an insane addenda deserves the title con man.  

Other stories in
2010-07-10 13:01: Strong Elastic Links
2010-07-08 02:27: Truth: superconductivity for scalable networks
2010-06-27 02:28: Be afraid, be very afraid
2008-07-06 23:20: Laws of social networks
2008-06-20 15:40: Peer material production
2008-05-06 13:57: Why can't we stick to our goals?
2008-02-21 21:16: Open social networks
2007-11-08 01:49: The value of connections
2007-11-07 00:51: Diversity counterproductive to social capital?
2007-07-13 23:42: Plan vs Reality

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