Media Releases

Location matters when it comes to deal making says new study from U of T’s Rotman School of Management

April 9, 2014

TORONTO, ON – Even six-year-olds know who you sit beside mat­ters, whether you’re in first grade or at a high-pow­ered din­ner.

But now a new study, using the U.S. Sen­ate Cham­ber as its lab­o­ra­to­ry, pro­vides doc­u­ment­ed evi­dence of that phe­nom­e­non. It shows that where a per­son is locat­ed influ­ences who they inter­act with and who they will turn to in order to build sup­port for their own agen­da.

For the pow­er­ful how­ev­er, seat­ing arrange­ments don’t make much of a dif­fer­ence. That’s because the peo­ple they need sup­port from usu­al­ly come to them.

The study’s researchers chose the Sen­ate as “a win­dow into how peo­ple ral­ly sup­port for their ini­tia­tives,” said Christo­pher Liu, an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of strate­gic man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to’s Rot­man School of Man­age­ment. Prof. Liu con­duct­ed the study with Rot­man PhD stu­dent Jil­lian Chown.

The Sen­ate was ide­al for study because of its rich record-keep­ing. The researchers ana­lyzed co-spon­sor­ship pat­terns for bills pro­posed between 1979 and 2001. This was com­pared with seat­ing charts kept for the same peri­od. Detailed analy­sis was done on the dis­tance between spe­cif­ic sen­a­tors’ desks to test for the like­li­hood that sen­a­tors sit­ting clos­er to each oth­er might co-spon­sor sim­i­lar bills.

The study found that co-spon­sor­ship of a senator’s bill was more like­ly to come from those sit­ting near them. Sen­a­tors sit­ting close togeth­er were also more like­ly to co-spon­sor the same bills. More senior — and there­fore more pow­er­ful — sen­a­tors how­ev­er were not depen­dent on their sen­ate loca­tion for sup­port on leg­isla­tive ini­tia­tives.

Although the study took place in a polit­i­cal forum, its find­ings have impli­ca­tions for oth­er orga­ni­za­tions that are try­ing to bet­ter under­stand the impor­tance of where their employ­ees are locat­ed and how to fos­ter inter­ac­tions between them.

“Geo­graph­ic loca­tion is a man­age­r­i­al lever,” said Prof. Liu. “You can’t force peo­ple to work with one anoth­er. But you can make them share a bath­room, or pass one anoth­er in the hall.”

The study is forth­com­ing in the Strate­gic Man­age­ment Jour­nal.

For the lat­est think­ing on busi­ness, man­age­ment and eco­nom­ics from the Rot­man School of Man­age­ment, vis­it

The Rot­man School of Man­age­ment at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to is redesign­ing busi­ness edu­ca­tion for the 21st cen­tu­ry with a cur­ricu­lum based on Inte­gra­tive Think­ing. Locat­ed in the world’s most diverse city, the Rot­man School fos­ters a new way to think that enables the design of cre­ative busi­ness solu­tions.  For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it


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Ken McGuf­fin
Man­ag­er, Media Rela­tions
Rot­man School of Man­age­ment
Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to
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