International Business

Some people can't even eat the food, let alone get to grips with the lingo!

Having lived as something of an expat for over a decade (although I was officially "local hire" so never got the perks that were customary in overseas packages), from seeing serious cultural gaffs by guest managers more times than I imagined was even possible, and after hearing hundreds of stories of allegedly competent bosses crashing and burning on foreign soil, I decided to look to the literature for understanding.

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According to Good (1988) and Gulati (1995), trust is the product of the repeated meeting of actors. This claim jeopardizes (or perhaps merely complicates) the distinction between bond and bridge. After how many meetings does a bridge become a bond? And does the transformation entail loss, increase, or maintenance of the bridge’s resources? That a connection cannot be definable as simultaneously bridge and bond seems improbable, if trust – the elemental contribution of social capital – is the product of repetitious interaction alone, regardless of interaction quality.

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Burt (1992) argued that networks benefit from having structural hole-spanning members. Diverse resources can flow through such actors into the network. The presence of structural hole-spanning members can therefore offset the hazards of network insularity.

Two closed networks (or clusters) exist, A and B. No members of either population interact. A structural hole (the blue floor area) separates them from each other and from any other networks.

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