A new article “Before they were ties: Predicting the value of brand-new connections,” co-authored with Daniel Levin (Rutgers University), has just been accepted for publication in the Journal of Management.
Complementing and extending prior studies on the value of existing work relationships, this study examines whether we can predict the value of brand-new ties before people ever meet. We examine this question by developing three sets of hypotheses reflecting the three main perspectives in the social networks literature: the resource (actor), dyadic (tie), and structural (network) perspective. To test our hypotheses, we asked executives to reach out for advice from someone they had never met and to complete a survey of their various thoughts about the other person both before and after making a connection. We find support for all three perspectives after a connection has been made; however, before tie formation, we find evidence only for the structural perspective. Our results suggest that the lack of reliable information about strangers obscures which brand-new ties will turn out to be more valuable but that surrounding network structures remain a reliable predictor of value, even for brand-new ties.