Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Network Clustering: The Power of Reputation

As we leave our series on network centrality and begin an exploration of network clustering, who better to help us bridge the gap than Ron Burt. Burt is perhaps best known for his amazing network-based research on innovation and the source of good ideas, which brought "structural holes" to the world's attention. In Brokerage & Closure he expands these ideas into book form and brings additional attention to "closure," a key trait related to network clustering.

Very briefly, closure refers to the interconnectedness of one's contacts: When my contacts don't know each other, my network is "open," and when they do know each other, my network is "closed." Assuming that I am #1 (naturally), two extremes of open (left) and closed (right) are pictured below:"Open" and "closed" are pretty much the same as bridging and bonding, as I have discussed before:

For more discussion of network closure, I recommend Burt's online notes for his executive MBA course, "Strategic Leadership," specifically the chapter on Closure, which I would sum up with these two points:
  1. The peer pressure created by closed networks builds commitment and productivity
  2. The peer pressure created by closed networks reinforces groupthink and promotes mindless stereotypes
Click on the image below and you can read what Burt himself says:

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