Small Worlds in Context: How Generalizable is Interorganizational Network Structure?

Lori Rosenkopf, Management, The Wharton School, and Anindya Ghosh, Tilburg University

Abstract: Our field’s growing attention to interorganizational network structure frequently builds on the Watts and Strogatz (1998) small world model. Our literature has identified “small worlds” — actual networks which simultaneously obtain relatively high clustering and short path length — in many contexts. Yet as we illustrate, these approaches use incommensurable methods and overgeneralized data, while yielding equivocal findings of structure on performance. To address these issues, we discuss underlying characteristics of primary network data and encourage researchers to detail their data and measures in order to facilitate comparative assessments. Further, we demonstrate a more rigorous approach, the “small world omega” statistic (Telesford et al., 2011), which may serve as a basis for comparing small world networks more systematically. We close with suggestions for ongoing research.

Read the full working paper here (PDF).

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.