Gavin’s Friday Reads

Nov 27, 2020

An Interdisciplinary Perspective on Human Behavior, from our Chair

This list introduces a new weekly series – Gavin’s Friday Reads. As anyone who attends our Town Hall events has come to know, our Board Chairperson, Gavin Watson, is an avid reader who delights in books to stoke his curious mind. Now that many of us arrive at a long weekend ready to relax, unwind and hopefully restore ourselves while safe at home, we wanted to present his top five current book recommendations. 

We offer it in thanks for the health and happiness Conscious Capitalism brings to the world. 

Bonus points for coming to our next Town Hall with one or two under your belt. As always, we’re sure to have a lively exchange. 

  1. Elinor Ostram, Governing the Commons (1990) 

Ostrom won a Nobel Prize in economics for this – and with good reason!  In it, she lays out the conditions necessary for a group to manage common resources, sustainability. Gavin considers this a foundational text because it can be applied to self-organizing teams at work. For next Friday, we’ll lay out all 8 of Ostrom’s core design principles and get into more detail about how we can use these principles to design for creative and highly productive teams that are essentially self-organizing and self-governed.

  1. David Sloan Wilson, with Paul Atkins and Steven Hayes, Prosocial (2013)

Wilson is an evolutionary biologist, and stands on Ostrom’s work in economics to view group behavior through the scientific lens of how humans have evolved over time. As the authors lay out, when you understand how we are hardwired to behave with each other, workplaces as well as volunteer or activist groups can be engineered to address deep social needs in the drive for performance. Gavin wholeheartedly agrees with their claim that addressing social equity first and foremost is the path towards lasting change. 

  1. Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (2013)

A psychologist, Haidt is concerned with morality and politics, two issues that are intertwined and often divide society into “us” and “them.” Resolving these rifts is primarily, according to the author, a function of shifting our mindset to recognize that we need both caution and risk, standards and autonomy, in order for any human group to function and our species to survive. 

  1. Jeff Sutherland, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time (2014)

By now you may notice that these picks are in chronological order. Their ideas interlock, and reflect Gavin’s own interdisciplinary approach to poking at the biggest and most fundamental questions that can keep us up at night. Why is it so easy to misunderstand each other, even when we’re on the same team? And how can work have more intrinsic meaning, so that it becomes creatively satisfying? These itches get scratched in this read, which will motivate some immediate experiments. Gavin has found that inviting people to opt-in to projects, empowering them to self-organize and keeping up a conversation about what’s working and what’s not is the essence of Scrum, and it works! 

  1. Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave (2017)

The subtitle of this book is “Humans at our Best and Worst.”  Do you see a theme, here, yet? Gavin is enthusiastically concerned about how we treat each other in groups not only so we can get things done right, but so we can decide – together, and not in conflict – to do the right things! This pick from Bill Gates’ reading list is more than worthy of being passed along, because it draws upon latest advances in neurobiology, primatology, and other scientific disciplines to explore all of the above. 

“If you only have time to read one new text over Thanksgiving break, any of these would be worthwhile. But if you want to build a mini-curriculum of big ideas that can lead to great results, this could be a good start. We’ll be at the Town Halls ready to discuss, and of course want to hear your picks as well!” 

-Gavin Watson, Chair, Conscious Capitalism Connecticut Chapter

Gavin Watson Associates