By Melinda Blau and Karen L. Fingerman, W.W. Norton (2009).
While this book builds on the established notion of weak ties being valuable information sources, it also offers a handful of insights into how those weak ties work in innovation.
It starts with a simple self test: a list of 22 occupations. You check off whether you’re related to someone in that field, are friends with someone, or just know them as what you might call acquaintances—someone you could talk to. Most people know people in about six or seven of the occupations—the best performer could check off 19.
According to Blau and Fingerman, the more of them you know, the more likely you are to get diverse experience, ideas, and more tools for solving problems.
It even works virtually. When InnoCentive posted scientific inquiries, within four years 80,000 people had signed up—and the best solutions came from diverse groups of scientists in a variety of fields.
This book is eye-opening on a personal level (you’re more likely to find a new job through these consequential strangers in your network than through friends and family), and it offers a number of examples that reinforce the importance of diverse opinions in creating breakthrough ideas.
I’d give it an 8.5 on the LL Innovation Meter for anyone who wants to increase your own effectiveness or that of your team.