Personal networks affect business


Joanne Horton

Thanks to the Visiting Professor Programme, the School of Business, Economics and Law always has a number of international researchers visiting. One of these is Joanne Horton from the University of Exeter in England. Her research deals primarily with everything about how social relationships and networks affect companies and their business operations.

“My research indicates that managers with strong networks have higher salaries, but also that companies perform better under their management. There’s also research indicating that networks affect how innovative a company is. Innovation is often about combining existing ideas and adding a twist to them, and this opportunity increases with a broader network of contacts,” says Joanne Horton.

Look beyond your usual hunting grounds As an expert in this field, Joanne Horton often makes appearances as a speaker, and she always gives the same tip to people who want to develop their social networks.

“Network with people you wouldn’t normally be in contact with. It’s a bit more awkward, as we feel secure with people like ourselves, but this is where you pick up new information and learn new things. Avoid creating more contacts in groups to which you already have a link. After all, it takes time to maintain all relationships. There is a study by the sociologist Granovetter, in which he follows people applying for a new job. It turned out that their usual networks didn’t produce very much. After all, they have the same information as you. It was far more effective to look beyond the usual group, or to talk to someone you’ve not been in touch with for 20 years,” says Joanne Horton.

She also believes that she practises what she preaches, at least in her professional life, where she works in close, interdisciplinary collaboration with people such as sociologists, behavioural scientists and IT analysts.

Swedish golf networks under the microscope

During her time at the School of Business, Economics and Law, Joanne Horton will also be dedicating herself to new, exciting projects. One of these involves investigating whether companies and organisations are actually more successful if key individuals are members of a golf club.

“It’s often said that business is done out on the golf course, that this is where future mergers are discussed and new board members recruited. We’re now going to find out if this is the case. One major advantage in this context is that there’s such good data here in Sweden. That’s important when you want to investigate social connections. We’re undertaking a kind of detective work, in which data is matched to see whether we kind identify correlations,” says Joanne Horton.

A new way of predicting bankruptcies

Our social networks are largely digital nowadays. Here too, Joanne Horton has interesting research projects under way in Gothenburg. The hypothesis to be investigated is whether it is possible to predict bankruptcies by analysing what is being said in social media.

“Let’s say you’re an employee at a company, but have a feeling that things aren’t going too well. The first thing you do is to update your LinkedIn account. You might also be a subcontractor telling an industry colleague that you’re not been paid for six months. We want to try and find an algorithm that helps us to convert these kinds of entries, posts and conversations into predictions. There is a model that uses financial data to predict bankruptcies, but that has quite a short-term perspective. We want to find out whether we can spot this sooner by moni- toring social networks online,” says Joanne Horton.


Professor at the University of Exeter. Formerly Senior Lecturer at the London School of Economics. PhD from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Has worked for KPMG in London, the OECD and the EU Commission. Currently Visiting Professor at the School
of Business, Economics and Law for the period 2014–2018.


Started in 2009 in order to achieve an international injection into research and education at the School of Business, Economics and Law. It was possible to initiate a new five-year period in 2014 thanks to support from Elanders AB, Stena AB, the Richard C Malmsten Memorial Foundation and the Volvo Group. 25 visiting professors have been engaged from 12 countries, vitalising research and contributing relevant specialist expertise to the local business community.

This is an artikle from the School's Magazine 2017.
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