As social networks have flourished, there has been a corresponding increase in the study of how networks operate, and what principles tend to produce the best results. I’ve written previously about the role our networks play in various facets of professional life, from the way we learn to the chances of start-up success.
A recent study published recently by MIT researchers has explored the role our networks play in how well we collaborate at work. Their findings revealed that the strength of our ties were fundamentally important to the success of any team performance. Contrary to networking lore, the study found that weak ties were not much use when it came to collaboration.
When weak ties existed between colleagues, whether along goal or personal orientated lines, there was shown to be no significant impact upon the performance of their team. That was certainly not the case with stronger ties however, with a clear link between the strength of the ties and the performance of the team.
When solving problems in a competitive environment, the study revealed, it does not matter how many people someone knows or networks with — what really matters are the strongest ties in the network. This has implications for the organization of teams of scientists, engineers, and a host of others tackling today’s most complex problems.
Similar findings emerged from a 2008 study into the role connections play in start-ups. It found that strong ties amongst the start-up team saw an increase in team performance amongst the group.
It’s an interesting finding, although both studies seem to explore scenarios where a common course of action is followed by all. It would be interesting to examine the role strong ties play in an environment where innovation is required, and therefore thoughts outside the norms of the groups are needed. Are strong ties as effective in that kind of scenario?