Rohit Aggarwal

March 8, 2007

Structural Hole among business PhD students

Filed under: Econometrics,Research,Social Networking — Rohit Aggarwal @ 5:41 pm

Lately I have been reading journals of other disciplines- Management, Accounting, Finance, Economics and Marketing, for understanding the literature on the second piece of my dissertation. In the process I came across one observation and the ‘Structural Hole’ theory of Ronald S. Burt. Then I started thinking over both. But before I share my thoughts let me explain my observation and Burt’s theory.


When I thought about this idea I have never read a single paper from Management, Accounting and Finance journals and had no clue about their research. To get some head start I started bugging fellow PhD students from Management, Accounting and Finance. All of them were very helpful and give various suggestions from the perspectives of their respective fields. Then I started to realize that most of the PhD students in various disciplines spend 4-5 yrs in adjacent offices but rarely interact and discuss about each other’s fields.  I wonder how drastically things will change once they all become professors.

Burt’s theory:

Bruce has already done this job very well. The gist of his explanation is the following:

This article will explore Burt’s surprising answer to the question, “Where do good ideas come from?” And it will show how to apply Burt’s findings to promote the business of collaborative innovation.…Burt has shown that more often than not, the key to innovation is not creating a good idea but recognizing the opportunity to re-use an ordinary idea from another group. Or as Burt puts it, “Can you get an idea which is mundane and well known in one place to another place where people would get value out of it?”

My thoughts:

My observation seemed to be an instance of structural hole theory of Burt and each of the business disciplines seem to be behaving as ‘silos’. So, if Burt’s theory were to be true here, then one who acts as an information broker among the different business disciplines should be able to develop ‘good ideas’.  Since in this situation I am playing the role of information broker, I hope Burt’s theory works out for me. Anyway, I am enjoying my work and at the least I am satisfied over the fact that I have an idea what other disciplines research on in a business school.

Besides availing this opportunity of bridging structural holes, I am also cautious about my identity as an IS researcher and try to keep the balance. Bruce also warns about forming too many strong ties across departments:

…The goal is to encourage employees to be brokers, not to encourage different groups to stay in constant contact. Creating too many tight-knit links between different groups wastes time and smothers creativity under a blanket of homogeneity.

Rohit Aggarwal


1 Comment »

  1. Hey, Rohit
    This really helps! All the best for your research!

    Comment by QD — March 24, 2007 @ 5:53 pm | Reply

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