Weak Ties and Diversity in Social Networks
Anne Truitt Zelenka has a nice post: Weak Ties for Social Problem Solving in Enterprise 2.0, touching on a subject being discussed more and more these days: weak ties. She suggests that one of the next challenges for social software is distributed problem solving: how to leverage your social network when you have a tough problem to solve.
One of pieces Anne references is Andrew McAfee’s The Ties that Find, a nice overview of the idea of weak ties, which originated with the fascinating work of Mark Granovetter, who wrote the original work The Strength of Weak Ties(PDF) in 1973. Weak ties are relationships we have with people outside our own social networks. We don’t utilize them often, but we utilize them in certain situations to help us with things our social networks can’t. Most importantly, weak ties gives us a perspective outside of the normal groups of which we are a part, whose perspectives tend to become homogenized over time as we learn and become familiar with the people we spend the most time with.
What struck me about Anne and Andrew’s pieces was the implicit idea of the value of diversity. Neither mentioned this explicitly, but for those familiar with James Surowiecki’s work The Wisdom of Crowds, diversity is crucial to wisdom, and thus problem solving. Weak ties helps explain how we continually introduce diversity within our social groups, by periodically leveraging those relationships with people outside our close-knit social networks.
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