We develop the argument that organization network structures that yield positive social capital in some task situations convey social liability in other situations. Using the distinction between exploration and exploitation tasks among teams, we show that the network position that conveyed positive social capital for teams engaged in exploration tasks was a social liability for teams pursuing exploitation tasks. Results of an analysis of 67 new product development teams showed that exploratory teams completed their projects more quickly if they had a social network structure composed of many strong external ties that were non-redundant. In contrast, teams pursuing tasks that exploited existing expertise took longer to complete if they had this type of social network structure, mainly because external ties had to be maintained but were not much needed for the task. We propose that organization network theories of tie strength and structural holes need to be broadened to reflect the effects of task differences, network costs, and difficulties in getting others to help.
Hansen, M., Podolny, J. and Pfeffer, J. (2001), "So many ties, so little time: A task contingency perspective on corporate social capital in organizations", Gabbay, S. and Leenders, R. (Ed.) Social Capital of Organizations (Research in the Sociology of Organizations, Vol. 18), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 21-57. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0733-558X(01)18002-XDownload as .RIS
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