Kleinbaum social networks in organizations syllabus (tuck school 2013)
RESEARCH TO PRACTICE SEMINAR:
SOCIAL NETWORKS IN ORGANIZATIONS
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Professor Adam M. Kleinbaum
Academic Coordinator: Debbie Gibbs
“It’s not what you know, but who you know.” This old adage may be an overstatement, but few people who
have worked in organizations need to be convinced that social relations are important for getting things done
in large firms. And yet, beyond the basic intuition that networks matter, most of us give little thought to
exactly how, why or to what ends networks matter. This seminar builds on the “Managing Your Career”
module of the MBA leadership core curriculum to examine scholarly research about social networks in
organizations. The research papers develop theory and empirical evidence to address questions such as: How
are interactions structured in organizations? How can individuals proactively shape their networks? What
factors influence a firm’s social structure? How can individuals use their networks to their advantage? How
can firms influence their informal structure? How does a firm’s social structure affect its performance? The
answers to these questions have important implications for individuals’ career development and for firms’
Tuck’s Research to Practice Seminars:
Research to Practice Seminars are a relatively new element of Tuck’s second-year program, meant to give
students intensive exposure to a Tuck professor and that professor’s research-based knowledge. Research to
Practice Seminars are based on three beliefs: (1), that the world is increasing in complexity, with knowledge
and understanding becoming increasingly difficult to attain; (2), that the most successful managers will have
the intellectual ability to sort through the world’s complexity; and (3), that both the results and methods of
academic research are extremely useful to students’ development of such intellectual ability. Every Research
to Practice Seminar at Tuck has the following characteristics, although each Seminar will cover these in
An intense immersion – a “deep dive” – into a specific, managerially relevant topic
Reliance on research-based knowledge
A learning to learn objective – understanding the methods by which faculty search for answers and
Seminar format, small in size, with a focus on intense student involvement in the learning process
RTP: Social Networks in Organizations
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Course Format and Objectives
• Each week, we will address one major topic in the study of organizational social networks. The topic will
generally be covered through three key papers in the space; some will be the “classics” that have defined
the topic, others will be newer, including some unpublished working papers.
• A typical week will be structured as follows:
− I will briefly begin by introducing the topic and why it is important.
− Two students will lead a discussion of the week’s papers. The discussion leaders should meet in
advance to plan such issues as: sequencing the discussion; circulating some discussion questions for
people to think through prior to class; dividing the time between understanding the papers,
discussing them, and applying them to practice.
• Leading, together with a colleague, the discussion for one week
• Attendance is mandatory. If you absolutely must miss a class, you will be expected to make it up by
writing a short response paper (2-3 pages, double-spaced) to the week’s readings in advance of the class
you must miss and sending it both to me and to the week’s student discussion leaders
• Preparation for and participation in discussions during each and every class session
• Individual midterm homework and final group project
Because this course is a seminar, the class will be small and everyone will be expected to participate every
week. This intense level of participation requires a greater level of preparation than a larger course and the
grading policy is designed both to reward your efforts and to promote collaboration, rather than competition.
Class participation (preparation, contribution to discussion, and leading discussion) will count for 60% of the
• Preparation – for each class, you should have read each article and be prepared to discuss: the research
question (what question did the authors set out to answer), the data and analysis used to address the
question, the results and the authors’ conclusions. You should be prepared to critique the paper on
grounds of both quality and relevance. You should draw connections between the papers, noting
similarities, differences, contradictions, or different assumptions. And you should think about what the
findings of the research imply for practice.
• Contribution to discussion – participating in seminar discussions is essential. Because the class is small,
each participant will have to shoulder a large share of the discussion.
• Leading discussion – each week (beginning Week 2 of the course) two students will share responsibility
for leading the discussion. Discussion leadership will influence the class participation grade.
A midterm project will count for 10% of the course grade.
• The project, which will be completed individually, is designed to give you a taste of what it is like to do
network analysis. Details will be provided during the course.
A final project will count for 30% of the course grade. Details will be made available later in the term.
• You should work on the final project in groups of 2-3 students. Particularly ambitious projects may
include a fourth member, with advance permission.
• Your group will present the project to the class during the last week of the term. Final presentations
should include a presentation and allow time for questions and answers.
RTP: Social Networks in Organizations
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MODULE I: Social Capital and the Network Perspective
Week 1. Introduction, Small Worlds, and the Social Structure of Economic Life
Milgram, Stanley. 1967. “The Small World Problem.” Psychology Today 2:60-67.
Activity: Spend a few minutes exploring the small world of Hollywood actors through The
Oracle of Bacon (http://oracleofbacon.org)
Granovetter, Mark. 1985. “Economic Action and Social Structure: The Problem of Embeddedness.”
American Journal of Sociology 91:481-510.
Uzzi, Brian. 1997. “Social Structure and Competition in Interfirm Networks: The Paradox of
Embeddedness.” Administrative Science Quarterly 42:35-67.
MODULE II: Network Origins
Week 2. Patterns of Tie Formation: Homophily and Propinquity
Festinger, Leon, Stanley Schachter, and Kurt Back. 1950. Social Pressures in Informal Groups: A Study of
Human Factors in Housing. New York: Harper. Chapters 2-3 and Figure 1 (from page 2).
Blau, Peter Michael. 1979. “A Fable About Social Structure.” Social Forces 58:777-784.
Kleinbaum, Adam M., Toby E. Stuart, and Michael L. Tushman. Forthcoming. “Discretion Within
Constraint: Homophily and Structure in a Formal Organization.” Organization Science.
Week 3. The Interplay of Formal and Informal Structure
Gulati, Ranjay, and Phanish Puranam. 2009. “Renewal through Reorganization: The Value of
Inconsistencies between Formal and Informal Organization.” Organization Science 20:422-440.
Kleinbaum, Adam M. 2012. “Organizational Misfits and the Origins of Brokerage in Intrafirm
Networks.” Administrative Science Quarterly 57(3):407-52.
Singh, Jasjit, Morten T. Hansen, and Joel M. Podolny. 2010. “The World Is Not Small for Everyone:
Inequity in Searching for Knowledge in Organizations.” Management Science 56:1415-1438.
Week 4. Personality Antecedents of Network Structure
Sasovova, Zuzana, Ajay Mehra, Stephen P. Borgatti, and Michaela C. Schippers. 2010. “Network
Churn: The Effects of Self-Monitoring Personality on Brokerage Dynamics.” Administrative
Science Quarterly 55(4):639-70.
Kleinbaum, Adam M., Alexander H. Jordan, and Pino Audia. 2012. “Do You Read Me? How
Perceptions of Empathy Shape Self-Monitors’ Brokerage in Social Networks.” Tuck Working
Burt, Ronald S. 2012. “Network-Related Personality and the Agency Question: Multi-Role Evidence
from a Virtual World.” American Journal of Sociology 118(3).
RTP: Social Networks in Organizations
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MODULE III: Consequences of Network Structure
Week 5. Network Analysis in Practice
Cross, Rob, Tim Laseter, Andrew Parker, and Guillermo Velasquez. 2006. “Using Social Network
Analysis to Improve Communities of Practice.” California Management Review 49(1):32-60.
Notes: Nat Bulkley (Pfizer) will join us in class for a discussion of how Pfizer uses social network
analysis to improve investment decision-making, enhance R&D productivity through
communities of practice, and keep executive leadership informed about organizational
Midterm Project is due in class.
Week 6. Networks, Social Capital and Performance
Burt, Ronald S. 1992. Structural Holes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. (Intro and Chapter 1.)
Coleman, James S. 1988. “Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital.” American Journal of
Podolny, Joel M., and James N. Baron. 1997. “Resources and Relationships: Social Networks and
Mobility in the Workplace.” American Sociological Review 62:673-693.
Week 7. Alternative Views of Brokerage
Fernandez, Roberto M., and Roger V. Gould. 1994. “A Dilemma of State Power: Brokerage and
Influence in the National Health Policy Domain.” American Journal of Sociology 99(6):1455-91.
Obstfeld, David. 2005. “Social Networks, the Tertius Iungens Orientation, and Involvement in
Innovation.” Administrative Science Quarterly 50:100-130.
Vedres, Balázs, and David Stark. 2010. “Structural Folds: Generative Disruption in Overlapping
Groups.” American Journal of Sociology 115(4):1150-90.
Week 8. Social Status
Podolny, Joel M. 1993. “A Status-Based Model of Market Competition.” American Journal of Sociology
Bothner, Matthew S., Young-Kyu Kim, and Edward Bishop Smith. 2012. “How Does Status Affect
Performance? Status as an Asset vs. Status as a Liability in the PGA and NASCAR.”
Organization Science 23(2):416-33.
Cowen, Amanda P. 2012. “An Expanded Model of Status Dynamics: The Effects of Status Transfer
and Interfirm Coordination.” Academy of Management Journal 55(5):1169-86.
Week 9. Final Student Presentations