Do Talk to Strangers: Encouraging Performative Ties to Create Competitive Advantage

Imagine the following situation: You are a consultant who has just been assigned to a new project at your firm, and your first major presentation is in a week. Unfortunately, your client’s problem isn’t something you have any expertise in. Chances are, according to research by Sheen S. Levine, a professor at Singapore Management University who earned his PhD from Wharton, you would pick up the phone and make a call. In a recent study, Levine has found that often, what gives firms competitive advantage isn’t just their repository of knowledge, but their use of “performative ties” — those impromptu communications made by colleagues who are strangers in which critical knowledge is transferred with no expectation of a quid pro quo. Levine and others explain how performative ties function in daily practice and — more importantly — how managers can go about encouraging them.

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