Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Personality and Propensity to Brokerage

Yesterday I posted Ron Burt's Network Entrepreneur Personality Index. The mere existance of such a thing would make you think that personality and social networking are related. And surely they are, somehow. But it seems that the relation is not at all simple. Consider more of what Burt says in his forthcoming book, Brokerage and Closure, about the connection between personality and social position:

The Network Entrepreneur Personality Index evolved from a widely used questionnaire given to MBA students. Burt and his colleagues extracted the ten questions from this career-advising tool that best distinguished students whose networks spanned structural holes from those with closed networks.

But how does that apply to the rest of us? Burt asks. After all, MBA students are a pretty narrow population.

It turns out that this personality profile does closely predict actual brokerage for people in technical and clerical jobs. BUT these are jobs where brokerage is NOT associated with better performance. In other words, these are jobs where people are free to network as they wish, without professional consequences.

For white collar managers, brokerage IS highly correlated to performance. But here the predictive power of the personality profile disappears. It seems that anyone will network if her career depends on it, regardless of her "propensity to brokerage" as measured in this little quiz.

Rob Cross and Andrew Parker concur with Burt's outlook in their book, The Hidden Power of Networks:

Research to date suggests... that the link between one's position in a network and personality characteristics is tenuous. In combining many of our social network analyses with personality scales (such as Myers-Briggs, FIRO-B, and learning styles), we have found limited and inconsistent relationships between personality traits and network position....It seems that the even the most introverted among us can, and often do, have robust personal networks.


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