In a modern interconnected world, you can often hear a phrase: who you know affects what you know. However, if you actually try to illustrate who you know on a piece of paper – the task may not be simple. If you only include your closest friends, it is plausible, but what happens when you start to map out your friend’s friends? And how about all your Facebook friends, do you have an idea how they are connected to each other? It is fair to say that the potential reach of our networks is far wider than we have ever realized.
When we apply the thought of connectedness to opportunities e.g. a new job, what appears at first sight as a happy coincidence, may be more than that. It might, in fact, be a result of our connectedness to others, the indirect ties we have through friends and acquaintances.
In my Master’s thesis, I applied network theory in internationalization of innovative business and I found that the source of business opportunities abroad was largely due to indirect ties the case company had in a far reaching business network. In the analysis, I was able to identify particular bridging ties that actually enabled the case company to receive new internationalization opportunities which, probably, wouldn’t have otherwise appeared .
The learning from this is that, in a connected world, viewing coincidences as mere random events may strikingly limit the opportunities which we might be offered in the future. Instead, it is important to create opportunities for coincidences to happen and make use of them with deliberate actions. In my study on a life sciences company, an important source for the coincidental, yet significantly beneficial, opportunities turned out to be connections to the scientific community. As a result of the study, the company started to invest more in these relationships with a new understanding of the potential reach the connections have.
Title of Master’s thesis:
“Role of social capital, networks and serendipity in internationalization of SMEs”
Thesis supervisor: Professor Hanna Lehtimäki