Last week I analyzed the introductions underlying my professional network. Coincidentally, my colleague Steve Frigand sent me a nice follow up to this from the latest issue of the Harvard Business Review. Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap write about "How to build your network." They suggest that once you have analyzed who introduced you to each of your contacts, take a look at the grand total of how many times you personally introduced yourself (instead of being referred by a colleague). If you are introducing yourself more than 65% of the time, then chances are your network lacks diversity and is overly filled with people similar to you.
Something about this metric rubs me the wrong way. I participate in a wide variety of groups, and I like to volunteer for things like "hospitality" and "registration." I get to introduce myself to lots of people that way. Take a look at this detail of my business introduction network, and notice all the red nodes. Each of those is a different group I participate in where I have met business colleagues. Uzzi and Dunlap would suggest that even when I work the registration desk for one of these red nodes, I am subconsciously selecting people similar to me every time I exchange business cards. When I follow up and get introduced by my new colleagues to their colleagues, then Uzzi and Dunlap suggest I am more likely to free myself from my unstoppable urge to "homophilize."
Uzzi and Dunlap are probably right, but I wish they talked more about how networks grow from the groups we participate in. Instead, readers must turn to the somewhat more scholarly article, "Where do social relations come from?" which was published in the most recent issue of Social Networks. The author does a careful analysis of just how many relationships typically from from "circles" (group membership) versus "sociability" (introductions through others) and finds 59% arise through circles.
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