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Weak Ties as Opportunities

How does an idea become an opportunity? How does real change occur? How do movements begin? What causes momentum? How do innovations spread beyond a small group of people or a single individual to strangers who need the idea and can bring it to life?

The first time I heard the phrase “weak ties”, it sounded like a negative thing, like the relationships the ties represent were not strong enough. It turns out, weak ties have been one of the greatest assets of my life as a connected educator.

Weak ties are relationships that are ancillary, often related to a chance encounter, a shared acquaintance, or positive proximity to a person or place at the exact right moment. They are formed when colleagues who are close friends refer to another, potentially mutually beneficial relationship they have with another colleague, parent, leader, or community member. They represent the many ways we are all connected in a community, whether micro (the immediate area) or macro (representing groups we belong to, such as women educators or teachers who went to college during 9/11).

Weak ties have served me well. They have led me to new job opportunities, resources for my students, and new friends. Weak ties are also great places to start when a partner is needed for an innovation or new idea. My weak ties are often folks who are friends-of-friends-of-friends with colleagues I work well with and trust. Sometimes I create weak ties for others, when a colleague’s idea reminds me of someone else, something else we have discussed.

I have had the pleasure of meeting many educators, both in schools and in the community, in my career. These high-achieving, deeply caring individuals often feel lonely and isolated. I wish these weak ties could know how strong they would be if they were connected.

What if an entire infrastructure could be built around weak ties? What if there was a virtual space to make connections with other educators who may be friends of friends of friends, but end up being powerful influences in our lives? What if we could grow together, learning from one another, until we are stronger than we were before?

Let’s make that.

Interested in learning more about weak ties in a context outside of education? Check out these books that inspired my thinking about it:

Want to talk about it?

How have weak ties influenced your life personally or professionally? Do you have a success that was made possible by a weak tie to someone else in your network? Answer in the comments or let us know your thoughts on the Edjacent Flipgrid


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