Social Network Design tips

In ‘How to build your network’, by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap, Harvard Business Review December 2005, the authors argue that strong personal networks don’t just happen but need careful cultivation involving ‘relatively high-stakes activities’ with diverse groups of people.


A key tenet of bioteaming is connectivity ie good teams are well connected to each other and to their wider world. They manage their close relationships using strong ties (bonding social capital) and their wider relationships using weak ties (bridging social capital).

Networks are also vital in helping disseminate new ideas - no matter how good your new technology or product or process is it will go nowhere unless it reaches the right people.

Uzzi and Dunlap identify 3 unique advantages of networks - providing access to:

  1. private information

  2. diverse skill sets

  3. power

They argue that networks are built using one of three subsconscious principles:

  1. Self-similarity is picking people who are like you - this leads to 'inbred networks'

  2. Proximity is picking people who spend the most time with you - this leads to networks with 'echo chambers'

  3. Shared Activities is proactively building your network, not through casual networking or 'schmoozing', but by valid shared activities such as participation in voluntary enterprises together

The authors offer a useful worksheet for diagnosing your personal network along these lines and show you how to find the vital brokers in your network.

For more on personal networks checkout How is your personal ecosystem of relationships.

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I think "solving a real world problem" is also a key principle of social network design.


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