Understanding Social Networks: Theories, Concepts, and Findings

By Charles Kadushin | Go to book overview

6
Small Groups, Leadership, and Social Networks
THE BASIC BUILDING BLOCKS

Introduction

All networks are comprised of smaller units. This chapter explores small networks in which everyone knows each other, and the actions of the members of the networks are visible to all. The members of the small networks considered here are individual people rather than collective actors. These kinds of networks are generally called “small groups.” They are the “primitives” of social network analysis. These small groups are important because much analysis of more complex networks in organizations, to be taken up in the next chapter, focuses on the difference between networks produced by formal systems of the organization and small group networks created informally by office friendships and politics.

There is a long history of analysis of small groups, often called “primary groups” (see chapter 3), but propositions about how and why they develop have only been recently formulated. In the analysis of how and why small groups are formed, we will draw upon work in the previous chapters. Motivations for safety, effectance, and status are critical in establishing rankings within small groups; balance theory and triads are central to defining the boundaries of small groups. The observed characteristics of networks in small groups will be derived from a small set of simple assumptions. While previous work on small groups is important, the present formulation puts together ideas about small groups that may not heretofore have been seen as related to one to another.

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