The Administrative Science Quarterly (ASQ) recently presented the 2003 Award for Scholarly Contribution to Brian Uzzi, associate professor of management and sociology in the Department of Management & Organizations, for his paper, “Social Structure and Competition in Interfirm Networks: The Paradox of Embeddedness.”
The ASQ, considered the foremost journal in the management field, confers the award annually to the best paper published in its pages five years earlier that has had the greatest influence on subsequent theory and research.
Uzzi’s paper, said ASQ editor Don Palmer, was the most frequently cited of all papers published in 1997 in the journal and was judged to have had “the greatest influence on the field of organization theory of all the papers published by ASQ in that year.”
One judge called the paper, which is recognized as one of the first empirical and theoretical treatments on embeddedness, “a classic …The insights it produced about why embeddedness matters are now something that everybody knows and talks about.”
Embeddedness, the process by which economic transactions become entrenched in social attachments and networks, “was an emerging area when I started out,” said Uzzi, who has been at the Kellogg School for 10 years, after receiving his PhD in sociology from The State University of New York at Stony Brook. “It now is considered a core concept in management, sociology and economics. It has so many diverse applications.
“People always knew that who you knew mattered,” Uzzi said, “and I wanted to show in a scientific analysis that who you know and what you know creates both benefits and disadvantages for those involved.”
Social networks promote trust, innovation, risk-taking, deal-making and joint problem-solving, as well as reducing the costs of transacting, he said. But when the parties are “overly focused on maintaining a social relationship they lose track of the important underlying economic processes. When this happens,” he said, “the entire enterprise can be put at risk.”
To test these theories, Uzzi has written several companion analyses. His research on supplier networks won the Academy of Managements Louis R. Pondy Award in 1994 for the best paper based on dissertation research; another article on banking received the American Sociological Associations W. Richard Scott Award in 2000 for best Distinguished Scholarship.
At the Kellogg School Uzzi teaches courses on leadership, networking and economic sociology. He has received several awards for his work in the classroom.