We know our network of co-workers and acquaintances comprises a powerhouse of ideas and information. And you’d think that when we communicate and collaborate with them we’d have the potential to create some of the world’s greatest business innovations and collaborations. Yet as it turns out, it’s the people connected to our co-workers and acquaintances that offer the richest possibilities for creating new and effective ideas. These people we haven’t met yet or may not know by name – our “weak ties,” are the key to a company’s innovation success.
The Strength of Weak Ties
Let me explain. In 1973, Stanford professor Mark Granovetter published a groundbreaking paper in The American Journal of Sociology called “The Strength of Weak Ties,” which stated that as humans, we maintain strong or weak ties with the people we meet. This is not earth shattering in itself. What was revolutionary, however, was Granovetter’s findings that the so-called “weak ties” that we hold are the ones that foster the best chances for innovation and new ideas—simply because we are already so well tied in to our close friends’ network, and their close ties are therefore very “similar” to ours. By going beyond our comfort zone and engaging with those in very different groups, significant crosspollination can commence!
Creating the Right Environment
Connecting to “weak ties within an organization” however, isn’t always easy. You need an open environment, where departments or business units are aligned and working together toward the same corporate goal. You need a means to connect as well – a platform to find “weak ties” and grow new collaborative relationships.
Enterprise social network software enables weak tie connections by making it easier to find people you don’t know and establish working relationships, particularly when an organization is spread across multiple offices.
What History Can Tell Us
Think on this: When companies want to create innovative new strategies or products, they oftentimes put people with disparate backgrounds together, like sales and marketing. . .and engineering. The idea is that the different approaches these people bring to the table can create markedly fresh ways to tackle a problem—and to arrive at a viable solution.
What Do You Think?
What have your greatest collaboration successes been? Have they involved weak ties? Let us know here—and maybe we can even form some new weak ties through this blog.
Want to learn more about how strong and weak ties play a role in your business? Download our Enterprise Collaboration Playbook.