In this post, I recommend 10 books that show us how we can create a better future. These books are perspective shifting. They organize the chaos of our world and provide new direction for creating a better world.
- More Human: Designing a world where people come first by Hilton, Bade, & Bade
This book begins with a poignant story of the clash between humanity and red tape. A mother on a plane with a three-year-old is near removed as a disruptive passenger. Why? Her child had to use the bathroom while the “fasten seatbelts” sign was lit.
This book is about designing better systems so we treat each other more humanely. If you’ve ever wondered, “Why the does everyone seem so content to blindly hurt each other?” This one’s for you. Design is a tool that can support our strengths or weaknesses. Choose wisely and enjoy.
- Blindspot by Anthony Greenwald
Blindspot is a book about our thinking biases and the influence that these have on our everyday behavior. Though I’m a behavior analyst I’ve also worked closely with cognitive psychologists and used tools like the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and its’ more behaviorally grounded counterparts.
I’d hope that everyone would read this book and take the biases to heart. Stop and notice exactly how much of our world we simply perceive and react to “as if.” Though the ability to automatically categorize our lives and react accordingly is essential ability to reduce the chaos around us to understandable level – it often blinds us. In Blindspot, Anthony Greenwald talks about the most common effects of these blindspots and some of the ways in which we can detect our blindspots. Using this knowledge and stepping to behavior analytic theory – we can gain a better grasp of how to step back from the pervasive influence of assumption in our lives.
- Social Physics: How good ideas spread – lessons from a new science by Alex Pentland
Alex Pentland is a former MIT Media Lab leader. The MIT Media Lab is a veritable gift to cultural and scientific innovation. Those that have led or “grown-up” in this innovation stronghold have spawned technologies that now touch every aspect of our lives.
One these innovations that is quickly taking hold in the business world is, Alex Pentland’s People Analytics. People Analytics is a specific variety of Data Science that follows from “Social Physics,” essentially a Big Data application of sensor technologies (badges, passive mobile data, etc.) to understanding social behavior dynamics. Pentland term’s these dynamics “Social Physics.” Social Physics specifically tends to deal with how structural (i.e., architectural, ergonomic, or human factors) factors influence human interaction patterns.
Here we’re seeing the science of how organizations work at the level of placement of the water cooler, or speed of preferred communication forms, results in change in interaction patterns between employees. It’s a look at the many things that go unnoticed but yet deeply influence how we interact with each other.
- The Social Labs Revolution by Zaid Hassan
The Social Labs movement is near and dear to us. This book, and the movement it describes, addresses a movement and methodology that is being used to solve complex social problems. It’s a look at the types of institutions we’ve traditionally used to solve issues that matter, their failings, and a manifesto for creating hybrid organizations that marry social entrepreneurship to participatory applied research methods.
- People Analytics by Ben Waber
This volume further elaborates on what the “new science” of People Analytics has found in its first few years of Big Data research in organizations. The methods used by Waber and other’s (“People Analytics”) are new in the technological sense, but simply make contingencies previously unobservable more observable.
This methodology is potentially a great growth area for behavior analysis. People Analytics as a framework has traditionally focused on large-scale predictive analytics (i.e., they’re using an analytic strategy that relies on averages and unfortunately can speak little to adjusting for better outcomes in the evolving context). Behavior analysis, used in coordination with these types of live-feed data collection methods allows the behavior analytic practitioner to take a look at behavior at micro and macro levels, and cater change efforts to their function at multiple levels. This allows for a more powerful, flexible, and scalable ‘medicine’ than simple predictive models for change management.
- Honest Signals: How they shape our world by Alex Pentland
This is another volume further that describes methodology that can be used to measure contingencies ‘typical’ in interpersonal interactions. Though cultural and individual differences may be ‘averaged’ out by the traditional analytic strategy used by People Analytics practitioners the measurement is useful for behavior analytic purposes. Some of the topics of interest included in this volume include understanding how vocal tone, body positioning, and other ever present social variables tend to influence others.
- The Time Paradox: The new psychology of time that will change your life by Phillip Zimbardo
Phillip Zimbardo was made famous by his early work with the Stanford Prison experiment. Unfortunately, few may be aware of his more recent work which has focused much more on the effects of one’s predominantly used time perspective. If you’re more familiar with Relational Frame Theory (RFT) and temporal deictics you’ll find the response sets described around “future focus”, “past focus”, and “present focus” interesting.
- The Nurture Effect: How the science of human behavior can improve our lives and our world by Anthony Biglan
Anthony Biglan writes this inspiring text. Biglan hails from a more familiar behavior analytic background. His work on how the behavioral sciences can influence large-scale change is popular. As a speaker, you can often catch him at the Association of Contextual Behavioral Science conference. In this text, he describes, among other treasures, how we can improve education practices and how traditional corporate marketing practices may be influencing our society. This is an easy and inspiring read.
- Connected: The surprising power of our social networks and how they shape our lives. James Fowler & Nicholas Christakis
This book takes a look at the social structures of influence in our lives. As social creatures, humans are highly interconnected. We are influenced by the ideas, choices, and verbal behavior of those around us. The connectedness of our society only provides a better platform for emotion, health behavior, and ideas to spread across groups. This book reviews a great deal of research about the kinds of habits, choices, and moods that spread across our social networks and the conditions under which they optimally spread.
- Contagious: Why things catch on by Jonah Berger
Contagious may seem like an unlikely favorite for a behavior analyst but again we’re looking at conditions and platforms under which information and emotion spread and influence. This book focuses on marketing influence. Media, social media, and now the algorithms that rank this material, now greatly influence our lives. This book does a great job of being a fun introduction to a wealth of research about the conditions that lead to viral spread of ideas. For the behavioral analyst, there’s an interesting blend of focus on basic human responses to aversive and appetitive conditions and their interaction with environment.