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Success Often Requires Someone Different In Your Nework

Stanford Business Magazine: “In hundreds of studies over six decades, social scientists have repeatedly found that people network with people like themselves. If your classmates, neighbors, or work colleagues are similar to you in race or ethnicity, income or educational level, leisure habits, or age, your opportunities to become close to people like yourself will be greater than your opportunities to become friendly with dissimilar others. But even when there are natural opportunities for opposites to attract, people tend to connect with those who are just like them.”

“What happens, then, when the opportunities are opened up and individuals don’t get to select their entire network? In a new study, Sharique Hasan of Stanford GSB shows that college students can learn more from exposure to a peer they were not allowed to pick for themselves than from friends and study partners they chose.”

“Specifically, Hasan and Surendrakumar Bagde, an officer in India’s Administrative Service, tracked the academic records of approximately 2,000 male and female students enrolled at a competitive new public engineering college in southern India. They found that individuals randomly assigned to live with high-performing roommates in large barracks-style dormitories performed significantly better on academic tests at the end of the second semester than students who were placed with lower-achieving peers. Furthermore, the impact of the roommate — a member of each student’s personal network that they did not choose themselves — was stronger than the influence exerted by the friends and study partners the students chose to network with. Significantly, students benefitted from having high-performing people in their dormitory rooms even when their social castes were different.”

“The study suggests that success in college (and perhaps elsewhere) may take years of preparation, dedication, and hard work — but it also helps when someone in your network has smarts that aren’t the same as those you may already possess.”