Sharing complex knowledge requires trusted professional relationships. You cannot just throw people together and hope they will work effectively on difficult problems.
“strong interpersonal relationships that allowed discussion, questions, and feedback were an essential aspect of the transfer of complex knowledge” —Hinds & Pfeffer (2003)
Being engaged with a diverse network of people who share their knowledge makes for more effective workers. Understanding how to do this becomes a key business skill in the network era.
“We learned that individual expertise did not distinguish people as high performers. What distinguished high performers were larger and more diversified personal networks.” —Rob Cross, et al (2004)
It is not the size of our networks that matters, but the diversity of opinions and expertise that we can draw upon, in order to prevent group think, or an ‘echo chamber’ effect. In times of crisis, when information is critical, then having a diversity of opinions can ensure that drastic measures are not taken for the wrong reasons, or that viable options are not ignored.
“We need input from people with a diversity of viewpoints to help generate innovative new ideas. If our circle of connections grow too small, or if everyone in it starts thinking the same way, we’ll stop generating new ideas.” —Tim Kastelle (2010)
We all need to balance strong and weak ties to ensure that we are effective as professionals and engaged citizens. Doing so is an art that can be mastered over time, with practice.
“Experts have long argued about the optimal structure of a person’s professional network. Some say that a dense, cohesive network brings more social capital, while others argue that a sparse, radial network, one that provides opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurial activity, equates to greater social capital. [Paul] Erdős’ network shows both patterns — a densely connected core along with loosely coupled radial branches reaching out from the core. The people in the core/center of your network probably know the same things you do, while the people along your network’s periphery probably know different things and different people than you know.” —Valdis Krebs (2015)