Social Capital
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Social Capital

Reaching Out, Reaching In

Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis

This book showcases new innovative research in economics, politics, sociology, and management regarding the topic. Leading scholars from a variety of disciplines present ground-breaking new research exploring the still-undiscovered value of social capital. The book employs a self-consciously multi-disciplinary approach to address two objectives: reaching out and reaching in. Through theoretical and empirical scholarship, the authors explore the many contexts in which the phenomenon can have impact. In effect, social capital research reaches out to issues of economic well-being, civic participation, educational achievement, knowledge and norm formation, and competitive advantage. Further, the authors investigate the many connections between the core themes of social capital and the pillars on which it rests, including structural networks, cognition, relationships and trust. This book is fundamentally about bridging – bridging across disciplines, units of analysis, and themes.
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Chapter 10: Connecting to Brokers: Strategies for Acquiring Social Capital

Daniel J. Brass


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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