Social Networking Lessons – A class and a movie

I am pursuing a mini-MBA program from UW, and one of the classes we had recently was about social networks and how important they are for career growth and getting things done. One of the most basic lesson was that you should have open-ended network (networks where your people in your network do not know each other) when you are in brainstorming/information-gathering mode because it helps in faster information flow and diverse ideas, but should have a clique-like network (where your friends/network nodes know each other too) since they help in better execution.

Interestingly, I got another lesson on social network (a more subtle one) when I was watching a totally unrelated movie: Never Been Kissed. In case you haven’t seen it, the story is about a reporter who enrolls in her high school again to report undercover about today’s high school, finds it incredibly tough (again) to break into the network of  pretty girls and handsome boys, falls for a teacher and is then asked to shred him to pieces in her article.

There are the scenes when the protagonist fails to get into the social network (a clique) she wants to desperately get into, and has to get her brother’s help to get into one. The way her brother helped her get into the network was fascinating: he gets into it by being a natural at getting into such networks (he was part of such a network in his school), and then shows everyone how the protagonist is way cooler than him, and thus creating enough buzz for her to be accepted in a few days (of course this was a movie!).

This is very typical of a clique network: it is very tough to get into one of these if you are an outsider. One way of getting into these is to create (or revive) a link with one of the members of the network who can then help you get into the network, but this works very slowly. In workplace, you can find this phenomenon at work when there is a high-performance, well-knit team, and a new person gets hired or (worse), a new group needs to be part of this team. It is very tough to get these two to work together well, and many times it causes frustration for the new person/group. I can vouch for it from more than one experience. Managers can help create such a link first and slowly the new person/group can be accepted in the clique.

Do you have any experiences with such behavior?

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