Information Benefits

Networks rich in structural holes are a form of social capital in that they offer information benefits. The main player in a network that bridges structural holes is able to access information from diverse sources and clusters.[51] This is beneficial to an individual’s career because he is more likely to hear of job openings and opportunities if his network spans a wide range of contacts in different industries/sectors. This concept is similar to Mark Granovetter’s theory of weak ties, which rests on the basis that having a broad range of contacts is most effective for job attainment. [edit]Social Capital Mobility Benefits In many organizations, members tend to focus their activities inside their own groups, which stifles creativity and restricts opportunities. A player whose network bridges structural holes has an advantage in detecting and developing rewarding opportunities.[52] Such a player can mobilize social capital by acting as a “broker” of information between two clusters that otherwise would not have been in contact, thus providing access to new ideas, opinions and opportunities. British philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill, writes, “it is hardly possible to overrate the value...of placing human beings in contact with persons dissimilar to themselves…Such communication [is] one of the primary sources of progress.”[53] Thus, a player with a network rich in structural holes can add value to an organization through new ideas and opportunities. This in turn, helps an individua ’s career development and advancement. A social capital broker also reaps control benefits of being the facilitator of information flow between contacts. In the case of consulting firm Eden McCallum, the founders were able to advance their careers by bridging their connections with former big 3 consulting firm consultants and mid-size industry firms.[54] By bridging structural holes and mobilizing social capital, players can advance their careers by executing new opportunities between contacts. There has been research that both substantiates and refutes the benefits of information brokerage. A study of high tech Chinese firms by Zhixing Xiao found that the control benefits of structural holes are “dissonant to the dominant firm-wide spirit of cooperation and the information benefits cannot materialize due to the communal sharing values” of such organizations.[55] However, this study only analyzed Chinese firms, which tend to have strong communal sharing values. Information and control benefits of structural holes are still valuable in firms that are not quite as inclusive and cooperative on the firm-wide level. In 2004, Ronald Burt studied 673 managers who ran the supply chain for one of America’s largest electronics companies. He found that managers who often discussed issues with other groups were better paid, received more positive job evaluations and were more likely to be promoted.[56] Thus, bridging structural holes can be beneficial to an organization, and in turn, to an individual’s career.