Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why Latter-day Saints Need to Get Out More Often...

One of the most significant papers ever in sociology is said to be Mark Granovetter's widely discussed paper, "The Strength of Weak Ties," American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380 (1973). Granovetter revisits and strengthens his argument in
"The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited" Sociological Theory, 1, 201-233 (1983). Granovetter's study of how people found jobs indicated that it was weak ties - casual acquaintances - which were the most important part of one's network in terms of finding employment. The strong ties, relationships with our closest friends, tended to be limited to a narrow group of people who largely shared the same strong ties. Thus, the range of people that could be reached by branching along the nodes of a network of strong ties was very small. But our casual acquaintances provide links to new networks where the strong ties are usually much different than our own, greatly expanding the range of people one can access. And thus it is the weak ties that are the "strongest" part of social networks in terms of providing access to information and people that can be of help to us.

Latter-day Saints sometimes get very busy in their congregations and tend to focus their social interactions with other Latter-day Saints. It's natural, but it leads to a social network that is rather limited. Our ability to influence the world for good, our ability to network and help one another, and just to enjoy life more, requires that we expand our networks and tap into larger circles of people. Having more ties, even very weak ones, with people outside our circle of current friends is an important step.

To really understand how critical this is, I encourage you to read Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (New York: Doubleday, 2005). It's one of the best business and self-help books around, in my opinion. I'm about 1/3 the way through and it has already made me significantly more effective in my work, I think.

10 comments:

Clark Goble said...

I think this is true for many reasons, not just job seeking. And I agree with you that we, as a people, tend to be a bit insular. We end up adopting quite often a kind of small town mentality - even when in cities.

Even for missionary work, our insular tendencies are very counterproductive.

Walker said...

I recently went to an LDS Employment Services training session. Over the Friday evening and all day Saturday session (going over résumé writing, interview techniuqes, skill set evaluation, etc,) we spent over an hour just on networking and how important it is in finding a job. According to the brother presenting 66% of the jobs out there are filled from netoworking and about 4% come from the web or classified ads.

One point that he made was that LDS members should be one of the most networked people in the country by way of our church organization, but we don't do very well at it.

Walker said...

BTW, the Walker that posted above is a different Walker than the one that frequents this site.

It was a fine post, but I'm just a different dude.

Ryan said...

I also recently attended an Employment Services session, and our speaker spent nearly the whole time telling us that the way to find a job is through the social network, even if you have to build one just for that purpose.

Rather than going to those casual acquaintances and asking for a job, he suggested asking them to refer you to their casual acquaintances and pass your resume on to them. This takes the pressure and discomfort off without preventing someone from offering you a job, and quickly expands your network.

Bookslinger said...

Jeff, I can add my "AMEN" to that. Whether it's finding employment, finding business/customers, or doing missionary work.

I had a wonderful experience last night at a baptism, which was the culmination of a series of connections. Here's the story:

I knew Doug, the high councilman over singles in the stake, through the monthly singles firesides, as he was always there. I told Doug about my BoM placements. Doug told me one of his co-workers, Bruce, a member of the ward next to mine, and who spoke Chinese (learned it in the Army in Taiwan), wanted some Chinese Books of Mormon.

I contacted Bruce, got him some books, and found out he was long-time friends with Jimmy and Montana and their family, who are ethnic Chinese from Malaysia. Bruce also gave me permission to put his name and phone # in Chinese Books of Mormon as a contact person.

Yesterday, was the baptism of the step-daughter of Bobby. I didn't know Bobby, as he lives in Illinois, but I found out he's the brother of Jimmy and Montana. Bobby married a lady from China, and the lady's young-adult daughter was the one baptized. Bobby and his wife came to town for her baptism.

The missionary sisters had used a member translator from 1 hour away to help with the discussions, and he was at the baptism. I gave him some Chinese Books of Mormon and told him of my restaurant expriences. He realized the differences in the two types of Chinese, and we were able to give the young lady who was baptized the correct Chinese version. (The mom and her daughter were from China, so they really needed the Simplified Chinese style, and Bobby being from Malaysia read the Traditional Style.)

Then I found out that her step-dad, Bobby, hadn't talked with Bruce in years, and was trying to find him. So I dialed Bruces number on my cell phone and handed it to Bobby, and they had a joyous phone reunion chatting away in Mandarin.

So I gave Bruce's phone numbers to Bobby so they could keep in contact, and to the young lady who just got baptized so she'd have a local (next ward over) member with whom to talk in Mandarin when she needed help. Not only that, but it was "Uncle Bruce", who was already a dear friend of the family that her mom married into!

Bruce performs great service helping out Chinese immigrants, not just with translating but "navigating" things. They won't let him pay when he eats at their restaurants.

Bookslinger said...

Pass along cards are also a good example of how "weak ties" can bring about good. That 800 number is a good idea.

I also think the local mission office number should be written on pass-along cards, because too many contacts fall through the cracks between the people in Utah who answer the 800 number and the local missionaries.

Perhaps they could start putting the church's 800 numbers in the Book of Mormon.

Bookslinger said...

More rambling... Network marketing, or Multi-level Marketing is a huge business. I'm not a fan of it, as I believe it's not good for the low level people. But the owners and higher ups have made fortunes in it. A friend who recently got into real estate finally explained it to me.

The company making the product (Amway, Herbalife, the realty company, or whatever) doesn't need a lot of high-producing salesmen/agents. They can make just as much money by having thousands of low-producing salesmen/agents who work part-time out of their homes with little or no overhead.

Most low-level people (whether it be Amway or real estate) don't make enough money in the endeavor to survive on it. But in the _aggregate_, the company can be highly successful.

When I was doing computer consulting, I gave up on advertising rather quickly, and relied solely on word-of-mouth. It really worked. Do a good job for one company/individual, and they'll recommend you to their friends.

Mormanity said...

Bookslinger, that's a great story about helping to connect two people. Your diligence with foreign language Books of Mormon certainly contributed to that reunion. Thanks!

Aimee "Roo" said...

It's an interesting article, but even more so when you tie it to LDS people. I have noticed how small most people's circles are, usually just their wards and families. I would think, all networking aside, it would just make our lives more enjoyable and interesting if we broaden our circles.

Liz said...

I agree with ya. It is so important to get out there and meet people. We met a gay couple through our friends at work and have been having them over to the house. It is so refreshing to get other people's perspective on things and see things through someone else's eyes.
Meeting such wonderful caring people would not have been something we would have done had we kept to our close circle of friends.