Helpful Thirds and the Durability of Collaborative Ties
52 Pages Posted: 3 May 2015 Last revised: 24 Jan 2017
Date Written: July 7, 2016
Collaboration is increasingly the norm in many creative domains. Among collaborative ties, repeated ones are especially beneficial as they entail fewer frictions, facilitate greater amounts of information transfer, and engender more trust – all contributing to more creative outputs. Prior studies have found that dyads embedded in triads have considerably longer lasting collaborations, but the mechanisms remain unclear. We elaborate on triadic closure: a social configuration where all individuals in a group are strongly linked to each other. We build on the work of Simmel (1950) as well as others and theorize that two forms of closure exist, weak and strong. We argue that weak closure keeps triads intact because of the active relational efforts of third parties, whereas strong closure incorporates norms of helpfulness and generalized exchange, thereby facilitating durable group solidarity. Using a novel research design that con- siders the unexpected death of a third party as an exogenous event that takes away the active relational efforts of a third party, we find in accordance with our arguments that 1) working with a helpful actor is likely to increase ego’s own helpfulness and 2) dyads that lose helpful third parties have significantly more durable collaborations compared to dyads that lose non-helpful third parties. The results of our work extend the growing literature on the relationship between norms and networks.
Keywords: Social networks, social capital, science
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