Monday, December 8, 2008 by Dave Blum

From time to time, just for fun, I make a mental list of the most brilliant people I know.  Inevitably, one of the top names on the list is Harald Katzmair, Ph.D, founder of Vienna/NY-based FAS Research.  Harald is one of the world’s foremost thought leaders in Social Network Analysis (SNA).  While Online services like MySpace and Facebook get most of the media attention in this area, FAS Research is one of the only organizations making a scientific study of networks as they relate to business success and productivity.

“Social network analysis helps you to get a better grasp of your social environment and to find your way around. It enables you to shape your relations and to determine your success.”   –FAS website

When he’s in town, Harald and I tend to get together over sushi.   So recently, over seaweed salad, Harald was explaining to me that the core building block of networks is the triangle (or the “triad”).  Here’s how it works:  A and B decide to do business together.  Because they have no friends or colleagues in common, they share a fairly weak tie (or bind).  It would be easy for either member in this pairing to break off their business arrangement.  In the second diagram however, they have a third person in common, C.  Interestingly, the bond between A and B becomes stronger; it would be much harder for A and B to now sever their relationship, as either of them would look bad in front of C.  The triad strengthens the original pairing!

_width=75 _height=75 v:shapes=”_x0000_s1027″>As you add more people and hence more triangles, look what happens to the original tie. The bind just keeps getting stronger and stronger.

So what does this mean for us?  Cultivate triads!  The next time you have a business lunch with a propsective client, invite a third person.  Introduce your triads to meet other triads.  The more triangles you can create, the greater density of connection, and the stronger the network!

Studies show that the people and organizations who create the strongest networks are the ones most likely to survive economic downturns.  So the moral of the story is, don’t neglect the triangles!