Vernon Jordan as network hub

In his very accessible and enjoyable book Linked, Albert-László Barabási uses Vernon Jordan as an example of a “hub,” someone who collects an extraordinary number of links within a network. (It turns out that networks naturally develop such hubs if one node is added at a time and there are benefits to linking to already popular nodes.) At the time Linked was written (in 2002), Jordan served on a record-setting ten corporate boards of Fortune 1000 companies, meaning that “he regularly meets 106 other Fortune 1000 directors” and was within three degrees of separation from almost all the 6,724 directors of America’s largest companies. This centrality made him a useful person to know if you wanted to raise some cash or create a partnership, if you had a legislative or political problem, if you were thinking of a presidential run, if you had a scandal to hush up, or if you were interested in getting on a corporate board yourself.

Muckety (which is fun to play with, in case you haven’t already), shows Vernon Jordan’s current network as follows:

I find this map interesting for several idiosycratic reasons. I’m getting ready to teach a course on networks. I’m struck by Ward Just’s depiction of today’s Washington as a city of “fixers,” who profit from their network-centrality instead of their formal titles. I’m concerned about the history and strategy of the civil rights movement and wonder whether Vernon Jordan’s success is helpful. (It may be; I just don’t know.) I’d like to know who really runs today’s Democratic Party. Finally, I just spent a few days with my family near Oak Bluffs, MA–albeit without linking to Mr. Jordan in any way besides spatial propinquity.

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