Paper included in AOM Best Paper Proceedings

A new research project I’m involved in will be included in the Best Paper Proceedings of the Academy of Management Meeting, this time for the 2016 Meeting in Anaheim, CA:

Before they were ties: Predicting the value of brand-new connections

Daniel Z. Levin*, Jorge Walter**, & J. Keith Murnighan***

* Rutgers University, ** The George Washington University, *** Northwestern University

The vast majority of research on the value of social or professional relationships has focused on ties that already exist. We ask if it is possible to predict in advance—before people ever meet—which brand-new ties will yield more value in the form of useful work-related knowledge. We examine this question using three perspectives: the resource (actor) perspective, the relational (tie) perspective, and the network (structure) perspective. To test our predictions, we asked 150 executives to reach out for work-related advice from someone they had never met, and to complete a survey of their thoughts and judgments of the other person both before and after making a connection. Controlling for the effects of homophily, we find support for all three perspectives after a connection has been made, i.e., once there is already an existing tie. However, before tie formation—our focus in this paper—we find evidence only for the network perspective, in the form of either bonding or bridging. Our results suggest that the lack of reliable information about strangers—especially their likely relational or resource qualities—makes it difficult to predict which ties will turn out to be more valuable, but that an existing network structure remains a reliable predictor of value, even for brand-new ties.

Keywords: Social networks, social capital, new ties, tie formation, knowledge transfer, advice seeking