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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Expand Your Network by Bridging Structural Holes

Published December 28, 2014 3:30 PM by Glen McDaniel

Think about the people you know professionally; and most likely the majority are also laboratorians. That seems logical because you interact with colleagues at work. Maybe you belong to a local professional group or even a national membership organization. You might even know the majority of medical laboratorians in your city. That makes sense.

 

But think for a minute about the many professionals you know who may help in your career or who you can use as a resource from time to time.

 

Research conducted by Ronald Burt at the University of Chicago School of Business finds that our personal and professional lives are richer and more productive if we build bridges with others who are different and with whom we would not normally interact. This is called bridging structural holes.


Certain individuals and groups seem naturally connected to certain others; often comparing similarities and exchanging thoughts, ideas and even support. Burt says social capital, on the other hand,  is created by brokering connections by otherwise disconnected segments. All parties benefit from this symbiotic structure.


 

By the way, this is not the same as networking which is a deliberate strategy of expanding your list of contacts so that you can call on them periodically if needed.

 

You can deliberately bridge structural holes by creating associations outside of the laboratory: in your organization, at church, in a volunteer organization and even online.  Sometimes  it takes someone with different experiences and frames of references to bring a new perspective. They can identify strengths, weaknesses and even holes in your logic that you cannot see. In return you can garner support and even borrow ideas of how to solve a problem you are grappling with.

 

The great thing about bridging structural holes is that it is mutually beneficial. Many processes or lines of thought which are traditionally connected with scientists can be beneficial to those in business, social science and other areas. The reverse is also true. I cannot count the many times I have been complimented on my ability to analyze complex material or  my keen attention to detail. These traits come naturally to scientists, but not necessarily to my friends in business, some clinical disciplines or even journalism.

 

 When you adopt (or adapt) someone’s ideas you don’t even have to tell them, and you can avoid the sense of obligation of having to constantly ask for favors.

 

Here's the take-away. Deliberately court relationships with others “not like you” and observe how they think, the logic they use, they tools they have, the resources they draw on. Learn from them as they learn from you.

 

Chances are you will find something useful that will benefit you in your personal or professional life.

1 comments

That is really a deep concept. I agree 100% that we learn most from those who are not exactly like us.

One danger is that if we just talk to each other we reinforces biases and even negative attitudes. We might think something is impossible or that our profession will always be unrecognized.

If we talk to other professionals and see what they do and how they have progressed then I believe we can do that to.

I for one will make an effort in 2015 to bridge some structural holes.

Melissa Thompson, MLS December 31, 2014 2:37 PM
Miami FL

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