WEAK TIRES AND WORK
Granovetter’s theory feels good, but is it? A team of researchers from LinkedIn, Harvard Business School, Stanford and MIT set out to find empirical evidence about how weak ties affect labor mobility.
Their research relied on the efforts of engineers at LinkedIn to test and improve the platform’s “People You May Know” recommendation algorithm. LinkedIn regularly updates this algorithm, recommending new people to add to your network.
One of these updates tested the effects of encouraging the formation of strong bonds (recommend adding your close friends) versus weak bonds (recommending acquaintances and friends of friends). The researchers then followed the users who took part in these “A/B tests” to see if the difference affected their employment outcomes.
More than 20 million LinkedIn users worldwide were randomly assigned to well-defined treatment groups. Users in each group were presented with slightly different new contact recommendations, giving users in some groups stronger bonds and users in other groups more weak bonds.
The team then measured how many jobs users in each group requested and how many “job transfers” occurred. Job transfers are of particular importance as they are defined as getting a job in the same company as the new contact. A job transfer suggests that the new contact helped place the job.