Reaching Out, Reaching In
Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis
Chapter 10: Connecting to Brokers: Strategies for Acquiring Social Capital
Daniel J. Brass It is not wise to be the ﬁrst or the second when it is the third who beneﬁts. This is not a temporal sequence; rather, I am referring to advantages of the tertius gaudens – the third who beneﬁts from the disunion of the other two (Simmel, 1950). Research in organizations has shown that it is wise to be the broker – the third who connects two disconnected actors (for example, Brass et al., 2004; Burt, 2005; Fernandez-Mateo, 2007). The lack of connection between the ﬁrst and second is often referred to as a ‘structural hole’. As Burt (2005) has argued, the broker is in the position to access and control the information ﬂow between the two disconnected people or groups and acquire social capital. At the individual level of analysis, the advantages of structural holes translate into power (Brass, 1984), better performance (Mehra et al., 2001), promotions (Brass, 1984; Burt, 1992), career success (Seibert et al., 2001) and creativity (Brass, 1995; Burt, 2004). Studies at the interorganizational level of analysis also suggest that social capital accrues to the broker organization. Brokerage has been related to ﬁrm survival (Koput and Powell, 2003; Oh et al., 2006), innovation (Stuart and Podolny, 1999; McEvily and Zaheer, 1999), market share (Rowley and Baum, 2004) and performance (Provan and Milward, 1995). Why then would anyone want to be the ﬁrst or the second? This chapter examines the question of why we use brokers – people who connect two other people who are...
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