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The Strength of Dormant Ties, by Adam Grant

Stashed in: Networking, 106 Miles, #happiness, #kindness, Relationships, Trust, Empathy, Awesome, Meaning of Life, Jobs, startup, The Internet is my religion., Happiness, @aaker, Relationships, Networking, Networking on Steroids, Networking

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Dormant ties are like weak ties but more powerful.

Wharton professor Adam Grant writes:

Last time you really needed help, who did you ask? My bet is that you went to one of your strong ties—someone you know well and truly trust. Whether you’re looking for a new job or some good advice, it makes sense to go to your closest friends, family members, and colleagues. After all, those are the people you can trust to understand what you need and have your best interests at heart.

But in favoring strong ties, you might be overlooking the strength of weak ties. In a classic study, sociologist MarkGranovetter showed that people were 58% more likely to get a new job through weak ties than strong ties. How could acquaintances be more helpful than good friends?

The intuitive answer is that we have more weak than strong ties, so the odds are just higher. If you reach out to a few hundred people looking for job leads, and chances are that most of them will be weak ties. Although this might be true, the evidence supports a more powerful explanation: despite their good intentions, strong ties tend to give us redundant knowledge. Our closest contacts tend to know the same people and information as we do.

Weak ties travel in different circles and learn different things, so they can offer us more efficient access to novel information. Most of us miss out on this novel information, filling our networks with people whose perspectives are too similar to our own.

When I share this evidence, people get it, but they’re afraid to act on it. Convincing people to ask weak ties for help is like persuading a man to ask for directions. It’s uncomfortable to admit to near-strangers (and yourself) that you don’t have all the answers. Even if you overcome this barrier, you hardly know them, so why would they be willing to help you?

The good news is that there’s a way to have your cake and eat it too. There’s a third kind of contact that combines the new information that weak ties provide with the trust, comfort, and familiarity of a strong tie. It’s called a dormant tie.

Dormant ties are the people we used to know. Think about the people with whom you’ve lost touch for a few years: a childhood neighbor, a college roommate, or a colleague from your first job. In groundbreaking research, Daniel Levin, Jorge Walter, and Keith Murnighan asked hundreds of executives to seek advice on a major work project from two dormant ties. When they compared the value of these conversations to the advice from current contacts, the dormant ties were actually more useful. The executives actually received more valuable solutions, referrals, and problem-solving assistance from people they used to know than their current friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. Why?

Just like weak ties, dormant ties offer novel information: in the years since you last communicated, they’ve connected with new people and gathered new knowledge. But unlike weak ties, dormant ties also bring the benefits of strong ties. The history and shared experience makes it faster and more comfortable to reconnect, and you can count on them to care more about you than your acquaintances do.

This is great information Adam. My good friend Lewis Howes who is known as the Linkedin Superstar refers to that as Capstones and Weakties. He says a large percentage of your contacts originate from a few number of indiviuals i.e (power connectors or Adam Rifkin's lol)

He also says a great networking resource is Weak Ties or (Dormant ties). A great action step is to make a point of having lunch with the person in the office or cubicle next to you. While this takes you out of your comfort zone, from a networking perspective it will be way more effective.

lewis howes linkedworking

I am regularly amazed by the good that can come from engaging with weak ties and dormant ties.

So like Lewis I actively encourage people to make those reconnections regularly.

Here is a very important detail:

It’s easiest to reconnect with dormant ties if you’ve been generous in the past. If you have a history of self-serving behavior, your old contacts are likely to lock the door to their networks and throw away the key — if they don’t use the reconnection as a prime opportunity to punish you. If you’ve given to them without strings attached, on the other hand, they’ll greet you with open arms.

Be kind. Be generous. Have empathy. Don't be self-serving.

True indeed. 

His conclusion is golden:

After learning about these ideas, I added a repeating reminder to my calendar: reconnect with at least one dormant tie each month. This is one of the virtues of LinkedIn: it’s easier than ever to track them down and reconnect. Instead of asking them for help, I’ve been searching for ways to help them—sometimes by sharing knowledge, in other cases by making introductions. In my experience, rekindling old connections has become a source of meaning and happiness.

A source of meaning and happiness. I love that!


Yes, and in retrospect, so clear.

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