Weak ties theory of entrepreneurship

What is the weak ties theory of entrepreneurship?

The weak ties theory was put forth by Mark Granovetter in 1969 as a theory that explains why some people seem to access to more and better opportunities than others. He conducted a study of around 200 people who had just gotten new jobs and asked them how they got their jobs and most of them, around 75% had got them from acquaintances. The rate was even higher for the higher income earners in his sample.

The core idea is that weak ties are more important than strong ties in terms of providing you with novel and actionable information. Close ties refer to individuals that we interact with on a nearly constant basis, such as roommates, nuclear family members and a few good friends. Close ties provide very little new information because most of the individuals within the clique of a close tie network share many of the same relations.

The concept of weak ties is a well-established one in sociology and network theory. It refers to social connections that are not strong or close, such as acquaintances, colleagues, or friends of friends. These weak ties are important because they provide bridges between disparate networks, allowing for the exchange of information and resources that might not otherwise occur.

Individuals who have many weak ties to diverse networks are said to have high "structural holes" in their social network, which means they occupy a strategic position in the network. They are able to access a wide range of information and resources from different sources, and they can use this knowledge to make connections between people or groups who might benefit from each other's expertise or resources.

This strategic position in the network creates an opportunity for entrepreneurs to act as intermediaries, matching people or groups with needs to those who have solutions. For example, if an entrepreneur learns about a job opening from one of their weak ties, they might pass that information on to someone else in their network who is looking for work. If that person gets the job, they might feel grateful to the entrepreneur and offer to pay them back in some way, such as by treating them to lunch.

Similarly, an entrepreneur might connect a supplier with a client and ask for a finder's fee or commission for facilitating the transaction. By leveraging their weak ties and their strategic position in the network, entrepreneurs can create value by bringing together people and resources that might not have connected otherwise.

Many organizations recognize the importance of managing their networks to control the flow of information within them. They might do this by encouraging employees to build strong relationships with key stakeholders, or by creating formal channels for sharing information across different departments or teams. By managing their networks effectively, organizations can gain a competitive advantage by accessing a wide range of information and resources, and by creating opportunities for innovation and collaboration.

Some regard the weak ties theory as potentially leading to unethical practice recommendations because it seems to advocate for the active creation of weak ties at the expense of strong ties. There are also some implications about how a good set of weak ties are obtained that may have some "divide and conquer" or Machiavellian characteristics.


Granovetter, M. S. (1977). The strength of weak ties. In Social networks (pp. 347-367).

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