Heterophily [het-er-uh-fil-ee], or ‘love of the different,’ is the tendency of individuals to collect in diverse groups; it is the opposite of homophily (‘love of the same,’ the tendency of individuals to associate and bond with similar others). This phenomenon is notable in successful organizations, where the resulting diversity of ideas is thought to promote an innovative environment. Recently it has become an area of social network analysis. Most of the early work in heterophily was done in the 1960s by sociologist Everett Rogers in his book ‘Diffusion Of Innovations.’

Rogers showed that heterophilious networks were better able to spread innovations. Later, scholars such as Paul Burton, draw connections between modern Social Network Analysis as practiced by Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter in his theory of weak ties (if A is linked to both B and C, then there is a greater-than-chance probability that B and C are linked to each other) and the work of German sociologist Georg Simmel. Burton found that Simmel’s notion of ‘the stranger’ is equivalent to Granovetter’s weak tie in that both can bridge homophilious networks, turning them into one larger heterophilious network.

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