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2020 Starling Bookshelf

We speak a fair bit on the topics herein, at events where the organizers and audience are interested in learning how behavioral science, organizational network analytics, and machine-learning techniques come together in the context of culture and conduct risk management (and supervision). Nearly always someone asks, "What can I read to learn more about this stuff?" So we thought we'd complement this year's Compendium with a glance at some of what sits dog-eared on our bookshelves—yellow highlighter marks competing with coffee stains and notes in the margins. We hope that some of our readers will be inspired to give one or two of these terrific books a glance—and most particularly those by our academic advisors, noted below.

For more, please see our 2022 Bookshelf and 2021 Bookshelf.

Connected

The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do
Nicholas Christakis & James Fowler

“Germs are not the only things that spread from person to person. Behaviors also spread."

"Interconnections between people give rise to phenomena that are not present in individuals or reducible to their solitary desires and actions. Indeed, culture is one such phenomenon."

Thanks to Nicholas Christakis for contributing to our 2019 Compendium. You can read his piece here.

Connected

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

How We Lie to Everyone— Especially Ourselves
Dan Ariely

“Passed from peron to person, dishonesty has a slow, creeping, socially erosive effect. As the 'virus' mutates and spreads from one person to another, a new, less ethical code of conduct develops."

"The idea that dishonesty can be transmitted from person to person via social contagion suggests that we need to take a different approach to curbing dishonesty."

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty

Social Physics

How Good Ideas Spread—the Lessons from a New Science
Sandy Pentland

“The effects of exposure to peer behaviors are roughly the same size as the influence of genes on behavior or IQ on academic performance."

"By combining the influence model with a measure of exposure to peers' behaviors, or a measure of social strength tie, we can produce useful predictions of the likelihood that an individual will adopt a particular behavior."

Social Physics

Everything is Obvious

How Common Sense Fails Us
Duncan Watts

“[O]ur impressive ability to make sense of behavior we have observed does not imply a corresponding ability to predict it… It is this difference between making sense of behavior and predicting it that is responsible for many of the failures of commonsense reasoning. And if this difference poses difficulties for dealing with individual behavior, the problem only gets more pronounced when dealing with the behavior of groups."

Everything is Obvious

Consilience

The Unity of Knowledge
Edward O. Wilson

“In economics and in the remainder of the social sciences as well, the translation from individual to aggregate behavior is the key analytical problem. Yet in these disiplines the exact nature and sources of individual behavior are rarely considered."

"People expect from the social sciences... the knowledge to understand their lives and control their future. They want the power to predict."

Consilience

The Human Network

How Your Social Position Determines Your Power, Beliefs and Behaviors
Matthew O. Jackson

“[T]here is a chasm between our scientific knowledge of networks as drivers of human behavior and what the general public and policymakers know."

First, a few primary features of networks yield enormous insight into why humans behave the way they do. Second, these features are simple, intuitive, and quantifiable. Third, human activity exhibits regularities..."

The Human Network

Blueprint

The Evolutionary Origins of a Good Society
Nicholas A. Christakis

“We have not evolved simply to live in undifferentiated groups like herds of cattle; we have evolved to live in networks in which we have specific connections to other individuals whom we come to know, love, and like."

"[W]hen it comes to our way of living socially, we are more similar than different."

Thanks to Nicholas Christakis for contributing to our 2019 Compendium. You can read his piece here.

Blueprint

The Goodness Paradox

The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution
Richard Wrangham

“History and evolutionary anthropology tell the same sad story."

"[C]apital punishment emerged with language in the midPleistocene. Afterward, an individual who challenged the dominant culture could be in mortal danger."

"When the risk of being a nonconformist is that you will be executed, it is easy to imagine intense selection in favor of moral sensibilities that maintain you as part of the in-group.”

The Goodness Paradox

Behave

The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst
Robert Sapolsky

“Like so many other animals, we have an often-frantic need to conform, belong, and obey. Such conformity can be markedly maladaptive... When we discover we are out of step with everyone else, our amygdalae spasm with anxiety, our memories are revised, and our sensory-processing regions are even pressured to experience what is not true. All to fit in."

Behave

Social

Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect
Matthew D. Lieberman

“Our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connections in much the same way as they experience physical pain."

"Whether employees realize it or not, they have been wired to be motivated by being accepted and valued by the groups they are socially connected with."

Social

Liars & Outliers

Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive
Bruce Schneier

“Many people associate morals with the responsibilities arising from ... group membership."

"While morals are part of the reason we cooperate with each other, the preponderance of the evidence—both observational and experimental—supports the hypothesis that we cooperate primarily because we crave reward (engagement) and fear punishment (exclusion) from other members of our group.”

Liars & Outliers

Identity Economics

How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages, and Well-Being
George A. Akerlof & Rachel E. Kranton

“In every social context, people have a notion of who they are, which is associated with beliefs about how they and others are supposed to behave."

"Effective management encourages workers to be insiders, who identify with the goals of the firm." "But many studies have found that workers typically identify with their immediate workgroup rather than with the organization as a whole."

Identity Economics

Superminds

The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together
Thomas W. Malone

“We can define a community as a supermind where decisions are made by informal consensus or according to shared norms, both of which are enforced through reputations and access to resources."

"It turns out that groups have scientifically measureable properties, just as individual humans do."

"[N]ew information technologies are changing the political calculus of how to organize large groups."

Superminds

Linked

How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life
Albert-László Barabási

“While our individual choices are highly unpredictable, as a group we follow strict patterns."

"While noticing similarities between natural systems and human designs has a long history, it has always been difficult to move beyond the metaphors to quantify these analogies. Lately, networks have become the X-ray machines of our connectedness..."

Linked

Human Evolution

Our Brains and Behavior
Robin Dunbar

“We each have a distinctive signature, rather like a fingerprint, in how we distribute our social capital (time and emotional effort) across the individuals in our extended social networks— so much so that this pattern is preserved even when there is considerable turnover in network membership...”

Our thanks go to Robin Dunbar for contributing to the 2022 Compendium. Read his piece here.

Human Evolution

In The Company of Strangers

A Natural History of Economic Life - Revised Edition
Paul Seabright

“[N]o country can hope to live peacefully and prosperously unless it finds ways to reconcile its citizens to mutual trust."

"Only if we are alive to the way in which trust is taken and given in the various arenas that make up modern society will we be able to use the institutions in which trust remains healthy to cure the deficiency of the institutions in which trust has decayed."

In The Company of Strangers

Trust in Society

(Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust, Vol. 2)
Karen S. Cook (ed.)

“In the absence of trust, what are often fairly complex systems must be put in place to protect against exploitation and opportunism and to produce close monitoring and effective sanctioning. Even the law is a blunt instrument that cannot efficiently produce the kind of social order that comes from the existence of trusting relations in a group or society."

Trust in Society

How Behavior Spreads

The Science of Complex Contagions
Damon Centola

“Once organizational networks can be measured, they can be controlled."

"[B]y understanding the network structure of a population, we can discover new ways to control the flow of behaviors across it."

"The most important implication here is that managers can design organizational networks to provide a structural foundation for accelerating the dynamics of change."

Our thanks to Damon Centola for Contributing to our 2022 Compendium and our 2021 Compendium. You can read his pieces here (2022) and here (2021).

How Behavior Spreads

Design Unbound

Designing for Emergence in a White Water World
Ann M. Pendleton-Jullian & John Seely Brown

“[I]n philosophy, in the sciences, in art, and specifically within complexity theory, emergence now refers to a very specific process: one in which simple interactions among individual parts or agents form complex behaviors and patterns at the system level."

"Designing for emergence is about understanding the propensities of the context and designing with and for those propensities."

Our thanks to Ann Pendleton-Julian and John Seely Brown for their contribution to our 2021 Compendium. You can read their piece here.

Design Unbound

Upstream

The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen
Dan Heath

“Upstream work is about reducing the probability that problems will happen, and for that reason, the work must culminate in systems change. Because systems are the source of those probabilities. To change the system is to change the rules that govern us or the culture that influences us."

Upstream

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