6 - Social Structure and Decision Making in an MBA Cohort  pp. 101-130

Social Structure and Decision Making in an MBA Cohort

By Martin Kilduff and David Krackhardt

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The sample for the three related studies covered in this chapter consists of individuals enrolled in an elite master of business administration (MBA) program that functioned as one of the portals to management in corporate America (Kilduff and Day, 1994). These managers-in-training made network and social identity choices in a campus setting that imposed relatively few of the hierarchical constraints on interaction characteristic of formal organizations.

We examine how individuals' networks are shaped by ethnicity and gender identifications and how individuals differentially respond to network influences in making complex decisions. In the first section of the chapter, we ask whether within-race and within-gender preferences can explain patterns of network marginality for members of underrepresented groups or whether such marginality results from exclusionary pressures from the majority. In the second perspective on this same MBA cohort, we examine the structure of social influence. Individuals, faced with the organizational choice decision, tend to be influenced by others, according to theory. Are these others people perceived to be especially similar? Or are these others friends, or perhaps social rivals (i.e., occupants of the same social position)? Following this examination of the social comparison other, we provide a further analysis of this MBA cohort in examining whether some people more than others are likely to be influenced by network contacts in decision making. We push social network research in the direction of incorporating personality, specifically the self-monitoring personality construct.