What is the principle of weak ties, and how can it be utilized in cooperation between organisations?

"The Strength of Weak Ties”, a well-known piece of research by Mark Granovetter found that distant acquaintances are better at helping you find a job than your friends and family. This principle of weak ties should also be used to a greater extent in cooperation between organizations.

Weak ties are powerful

In many cases, people find jobs on the basis of tips given to them by acquaintances. In the research, Granovetter asked job seekers who had given them job tips and what their relationship to them was. Contrary to popular belief, friends and family did not play a significant role in this. The most useful tips were given by former classmates and other random acquaintances who the job seeker barely knew. This was explained by the quality of information. The family and friends of job seekers would be willing to help, but their contacts and information are very similar to those of the job seekers. Job seekers only have weak ties to distant acquaintances, but they are the path to networking. Granovetter's concept of the power of weak ties has laid the groundwork for many later models.

Job seekers only have weak ties to distant acquaintances, but they are the path to networking.

The significance of weak ties is continuously underlined in this age of social media. Through Facebook, you can instantly find a buyer for your things, or a restaurant recommendation for a city you have not been to – and possibly a job, too. Facebook friends are close enough to start business transactions or to help, but distant enough for giving new information.

Bridge-building for know-how

Major companies have a huge amount of know-how that could be reached through weak ties, but it is evident that some of it remains unused. Unfortunately, in many cases people ask for advice or brainstorm within their function or business area in a group who know almost the same people and the same facts. Those more distant to them in the organization lack the trust or motivation to share their know-how even though it would be easy in regard to technology.

Unfortunately, in many cases people ask for advice or brainstorm within their function or business area in a group who know almost the same people and the same facts.

An important task of supervisor coaching schemes at the corporate level is to establish new weak ties. Personal contacts will be established during the sufficiently intense scheme, constituting the basis of sharing during and after the scheme. This can also be promoted by project teams and working groups operating throughout the organization. In some companies, people systematically visit the team meetings of other units, or executive team meetings, to build bridges. There is a myriad of opportunities. When was the last time you asked for help, or received help from a surprising source?