Five Must-reads for World Changers
By Andy Goodman, Director, The Goodman Center
In February, we introduced Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center as a new contributor. Here are links to the February and April issues of the newsletter, containing his articles, as a refresher:
SDZG Academy Newsletter-February 2018
SDZG Academy Newsletter-April 2018
Every summer for the last 19 years, The Goodman Center has recommended books especially for people in the “changing-the-world” business (including nonprofits, foundations, government agencies, and more). Normally, we review books published in the current year that can help you communicate more effectively. But this year, we thought we’d try something a little different: we’ve compiled a list of five foundational texts that we believe are absolute must-reads. As you’ll see, our recommendations include books originally published as many as 50 years ago, but they have stood the test of time and, more importantly, they provide guidance that can help you right now.
Diffusion of Innovations, by Everett Rogers (Free Press, 5th ed. © 2003)
Even 56 years after its debut, Diffusion remains the definitive manual for introducing new ideas and convincing millions of people to try them—even if this wasn’t the author’s intention. Diffusion is an exhaustive analysis of over 500 innovations, from the cure for scurvy (which took nearly two centuries to gain acceptance) to mobile phones (which went from novelty to ubiquity in about two seconds). Rogers, who coined the term “early adopter,” studied these innovations to learn what makes a new idea attractive, how it spreads from one person to another, and what factors accelerate that diffusion. One caveat: Diffusion is not a breezy read. There are long sections worth skipping (chapters 2 and 3 on the history of diffusion research are positively sleep-inducing), but Rogers’ analysis of why some new ideas catch on while others don’t may provide the key to making your next new idea stick.
Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, by Antonio Damasio (Penguin Books, © 2005)
“I think, therefore I am,” wrote Rene Descartes, and for centuries this statement has stood as a cornerstone of Western philosophy. Antonio Damasio, neuroscientist and author, begs to differ. A more accurate description of the human experience, Damasio asserts, would be “I think and feel, therefore I am,” because thought and emotion are intertwined and inseparable. This has important implications for decision-making, which Damasio maintains is not an entirely rational process. Emotions are always in the mix and often are the determining factor. And that has important implications for good causes that want to influence how others decide. If your outreach doesn’t speak to your audience’s emotional as well as their rational side, you’re not working both sides of the brain. And if your colleagues have derided emotional messages as unduly “melodramatic” or “manipulative,” Descartes’ Error, first published in 1994, provides solid evidence to counter those arguments.
Numbers and Nerves—Information, Emotion and Meaning in a World of Data, edited by Scott Slovic and Paul Slovic (Oregon State University Press, © 2015)
“We require data in order to describe such phenomena as contamination, genocide, species extinction, and climate change,” the Slovics write in the opening of this important new book. “But the data alone, while bolstering the authority of journalists and scientists, tend to wash past audiences with minimal impact.” This conundrum provides the inspiration for a series of essays by Nicholas Kristof, Annie Dillard, Terry Tempest Williams, Bill McKibben, Homero and Betty Aridjis, and many others. The overarching conclusion, which may give solace to both devotees of data and hard-core storytellers, is also provided by the father and son team who edited the book: “In the past two decades, cognitive science has increasingly come to support the claim that we, as a species, think best when we allow numbers and narratives…to work together.”
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, © 2011)
If Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide or Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is already on your bookshelf, Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow deserves a place as well. Like Lehrer and Gladwell, Kahneman—a winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics—investigates how our minds work, and he arrives at a similar conclusion. When it comes to making decisions, Kahneman writes, we work quickly and intuitively, what he terms “System 1” thinking. As a result, our decisions are often impulsive and driven by emotions. Only later, when we have more time to reflect, do the more contemplative and objective faculties (“System 2”) get involved. In those moments, our brains create the rationale we use to convince ourselves that our decision was completely thought through. For anyone in the business of moving public opinion and changing behavior, Thinking, Fast and Slow is full of useful insights that can inform and improve the way you communicate.
Immunity to Change, by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey (Harvard Business School Press © 2009)
Changing behavior is hard work, and finding precisely the right keys to unlock change has challenged dissatisfied spouses, disappointed parents, and disgruntled managers for ages. Some will say people can’t change, but Kegan and Lahey beg to differ, and they make a strong case in Immunity to Change. People can change, Kegan and Lahey contend, but first you (the aspiring agent of change) have to understand that they are heavily invested in the way things are. So invested, in fact, that their attachment to the status quo functions like an immune system warding off real change. Fortunately, there are ways around these defenses, and the co-authors outline specific steps for facilitating change in individuals and across entire organizations.
Something Fishy Is Going On
By Dr. Rob Jones, "The Aquarium Vet"
I am delighted to announce that The Aquarium Vet is about to release the first penguin module of the e-quarist course. While penguin-oriented, this module is suitable for all aquatic bird displays, and covers Taxonomy, Anatomy and Physiology, Penguin Display Design, Water Quality for Aquatic Birds, and Life Support Systems for Aquatic Birds. Over the next year or so, another two modules will follow to complete the penguin series.
E-quarist™ Courses—Academy Subscriber Special!
The San Diego Zoo Global Academy is excited to share an additional Academy subscriber benefit regarding our collaboration with The Aquarium Vet: as an Academy subscriber, you are now entitled to a discount on the e-quarist™ courses. We are also happy to offer one of our free monthly webinars.
For more information about the SDZGA discount, or anything about the e-quarist™ course, including next month's free webinar, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit the Aquarium Vet website at theaquariumvet.com.au.