This picture* illustrates two important assets of clusters of networks: closure & brokerage. Brokerage is the unique connection between different networks. Brokers bring diversity. They connect different perspectives and make innovation and creativity possible. Closure is making networks closed and intense. Within a closed network people know and trust each other. They think and act as a group.
Patrick Kenis talked about closure & brokerage, the strength of weak ties and the importance of social capital in the third module of the masterclass leadership for middle management. The topic struck a chord with the participants. It’s not only about building strong teams, about getting to know, understand and trust everybody. When new ideas and innovation are needed, homogeneity is the enemy and respect for diversity is key. Brokers have to be protected and not everybody has to be “assimilated”.
The parallel with leadership development is clear. “In sameness we connect, in diversity we grow.” Also for our own development, diversity is key. We have to do many things, lose ourselves in many ways, before we can start integrating and making sense of our experiences in new and innovating ways. Only thinking about “closure” and “integration” makes us stand still. Our capacity to be our own identity broker determines our growth and adaptability.
* Burt, R. (2005) Brokerage and Closure: An Introduction to Social Capital. Oxford: Oxford University Press.