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Weak ties are a good thing

Variations on working the pond

I was just reading a guide to becoming a better networker, a so-so affair called Work the Pond, when a rather interesting bit came up. The book cites a research project from 1973, a paper called "The Strength of Weak Ties," by Mark Granovetter.

The takeaway is that the good things that fall into your life from knowing people come primarily from people you don't know all that well, from casual acquaintances. This really caught me off guard and sent me scrambling to check out the original article, which you can find as a PDF here.

There's a lot going on in the article and I want to spend some more time with it and maybe circle back around in another post, but the insight that seems relevant here is that casual acquaintances have far more power than you might expect because it is these acquaintances that connect you outside of your own core network of strong links into other networks of strong ties that you aren't a part of.
What Work the Pond makes of this--and quite rightly--is that "this means all our contacts are important. . .we never really know when a given contact will be important." (page 26) So be good to your casual acquaintances.

True enough, but it also suggests to me that, where possible, you need to look for ways to make yourself memorable to casual contacts. They need to be able to come up with your name when it counts, the karma wheel has turned your way, and they are in a position to help you. How do you do this? Obviously not by being a pain in the ass or wearing a clown suit. Minimally, I think it means actually knowing something and having people recognize that you know it.

Robert Richardson is the principle nomad here at the Mode.
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