How Your Distant Friends Can Often Help You the Most
You need to maintain a network that’s not only deep but also broad.
Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and a leading expert on success, work motivation, and helping and giving behaviors. He has been recognized as Wharton’s single-highest-rated teacher, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors. Previously, he was a record-setting advertising director at Let’s Go Publications, an All-American springboard diver, and a professional magician.
Adam earned his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, completing it in less than three years, and his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honors and Phi Beta Kappa honors. He has been honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award for every class that he has taught. He has presented for leaders at organizations such as Google, the NFL, Merck, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, IBM, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. He has appeared on CNN and CBC, and designed several experiential learning activities based on The Apprentice in which students have raised over $175,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation while developing leadership, influence, networking and collaboration skills.
Adam’s research has been featured in bestselling books, including Quiet by Susan Cain, Drive and To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, as well as hundreds of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine,USA Today, The Financial Times, Oprah Magazine, and the Freakonomics blog. Adam has more than 60 publications in leading management and psychology journals, and his pioneering studies have increased performance and reduced burnout among engineers and sales professionals, enhanced call center productivity, and motivated safety behaviors among doctors, nurses and lifeguards. In 2011, he won the triple crown of prestigious scholarly achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, the Academy of Management, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
Typically when we think about a network we divide it into strong ties and weak ties. The strong ties are the people that you are close to and you know well and you have a lot of trust with. The weak ties are more of your acquaintances.
There’s some wonderful work by Mark Granovetter and his colleagues at Stanford showing that most people tend to go to their strong ties when they really need help - when they’re looking for advice or a new job. But actually the weak ties tend to give more valuable information. So you might be almost twice as likely to get a new job through a weak tie than a strong tie. And that’s because the strong ties tend to provide redundant information. They often know the same information and the same people that you do.
The weak ties, on the other hand, travel in different circles, they discover different opportunities and they can typically get you more quickly to ideas and possibilities that you weren’t aware of. And yet, we can’t survive just on weak ties. We need strong ties that we really trust to be able to open up, to bounce ideas back and forth, to really feel like we’re in close and meaningful relationships.
And so I think that it’s really important to keep a balance of strong and weak ties. One of the things that I think is most effective when we study givers is they actually are willing to extend their help often to both groups. They don’t just help the strong ties. When somebody reaches out and they feel like, “Yeah, I can help and it won’t cost me a lot." So often they will do it. And I think that’s a great step toward making sure that you maintain a network that’s not only deep but also broad.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
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