Overcoming network overload and redundancy in inter-organizational networks: the roles of potential and latent ties

Francesca Mariotti, Rick Delbridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper builds on Granovetter's distinction between strong and weak ties [Granovetter, M. S. 1973. The strength of weak ties. Amer. J. Sociol. 78(6) 1360–1380] in order to respond to recent calls for a more dynamic and processual understanding of networks. The concepts of potential and latent tie are deductively identified, and their implications for understanding how and why networks emerge, evolve, and change are explored. A longitudinal empirical study conducted with companies operating in the European motorsport industry reveals that firms take strategic actions to search for potential ties and reactivate latent ties in order to solve problems of network redundancy and overload. Examples are given, and their characteristics are examined to provide theoretical elaboration of the relationship between the types of tie and network evolution. These conceptual and empirical insights move understanding of the managerial challenge of building effective networks beyond static structural contingency models of optimal network forms to highlight the processes and capabilities of dynamic relationship building and network development. In so doing, this paper highlights the interrelationship between search and redundancy and the scope for strategic action alongside path dependence and structural influences on network processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-528
Number of pages18
JournalOrganization Science
Issue number2
Early online date17 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • network evolution
  • interorganizational ties
  • network overload
  • redundancy
  • exploration
  • potential and latent ties


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