The best books that help people get people to take action

Who am I?

I study cultural contagion and how it influences people to help bridge the academic-practitioner gap for companies (from “blue-chip” brands to non-profits) that aim to put ideas in the world that inspire people to take action. When I’m not putting ideas in the world as the Head of Strategy at Wieden+Kennedy New York, I put people in the world as a Clinical Marketing Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan. My entire career has centered on getting people to move, and I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some of the most notable campaigns in the past years that have created both cultural and commercial impact.

I wrote...

For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be

By Marcus Collins,

Book cover of For the Culture: The Power Behind What We Buy, What We Do, and Who We Want to Be

What is my book about?

There is no force more influential on human behavior than culture. What we wear, what we watch, who we marry, how we vote, what we support, and just about every aspect of daily living is informed by—and in many ways, governed by—our cultural subscription. The better we understand this dynamic, the more empowered we are to leverage its sway. That’s exactly what For The Culture aims to achieve: help people get people to take action.

Throughout the book, Dr. Marcus Collins pulls from both theory and practice—using stories from his own work spearheading digital strategy for Beyoncé to working with Fortune 500 companies like Apple and McDonald’s—to illustrate the “whys” and the “hows” so that readers will be empowered to successfully apply these learnings in their own pursuits.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Why this book?

Predictably Irrational literally changed my life.

It forced me to see the world through lenses I had never previously considered. Each chapter masterfully married rigorous science and illustrious storytelling to explain human behavior in ways that simultaneously felt both familiar and foreign.

With great detail, Ariely unlocks how our behavior consistently runs counter to what we perceive as “logical,” despite the conventional wisdoms about what we do and why we do it.

It was this book that single-handily sparked my curiosity in the behavioral sciences and led me down the path to becoming a practicing academic. 

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

By Dan Ariely,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked Predictably Irrational as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why do smart people make irrational decisions every day? The answers will surprise you. Predictably Irrational is an intriguing, witty and utterly original look at why we all make illogical decisions.

Why can a 50p aspirin do what a 5p aspirin can't? If an item is "free" it must be a bargain, right? Why is everything relative, even when it shouldn't be? How do our expectations influence our actual opinions and decisions?

In this astounding book, behavioural economist Dan Ariely cuts to the heart of our strange behaviour, demonstrating how irrationality often supplants rational thought and that the reason for…

Book cover of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Why this book?

You can’t understand who we are and where we’re going without understanding who we were and where we’ve been.
Sapiens encapsulates the history of humankind with perfection, capturing the nuances of our complexities, the patterns of our tendencies, and the shortcomings of our wiring. It reveals so much about ourselves that we often overlook or completely disregard.

Reading this book was like meeting humanity for the first time.  

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

By Yuval Noah Harari,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Sapiens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens. How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the…

Book cover of Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

Why this book?

Working in social media marketing and studying the behavior sciences taught me how influence people are on other people.

However, Situations Matter, on the other hand, taught me how influential the environment—both literally and figuratively—is on our behavioral.

As Sommers argues, just as the museum visitor pays little heed to the influence that the frame has on the painting we view, we pay little heed to the context of the environment and its sway on our behavior.

I found that to be so powerful as a reframe of my scholarly work and a broadening of my marketing practice. 

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

By Sam Sommers,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Situations Matter as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An "entertaining and engaging" exploration of the invisible forces influencing your life-and how understanding them can improve everything you do.

The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your innermost instincts and your most private thoughts. And you don't even realize it.

Every day and in all walks of life, we overlook the enormous power of situations, of context in our lives. That's a mistake, says Sam Sommers in his provocative new book. Just as a museum visitor neglects to notice the frames around paintings, so do people miss the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think…

Book cover of Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter

Why this book?

We operate in networked collectives—social groups to which we subscribe our identities, like families, teams, congregations, etc.

And these groups operate the way they do not only because of the cultural operating system that governs expectations of the group and its members but also because of how the group is structured.

Social Physics unpacks how the dynamics of these networks dictate the way in which information is disseminated, ideas are adopted, and people decide what they accept and what they reject.

This book helped make the abstract nature of social networks tangible and provided concrete language to help make this idea applicable.     

Social Physics: How Social Networks Can Make Us Smarter

By Alex Pentland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Social Physics as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the world’s leading data scientists, a landmark tour of the new science of idea flow, offering revolutionary insights into the mysteries of collective intelligence and social influence

If the Big Data revolution has a presiding genius, it is MIT’s Alex “Sandy” Pentland. Over years of groundbreaking experiments, he has distilled remarkable discoveries significant enough to become the bedrock of a whole new scientific field: social physics. Humans have more in common with bees than we like to admit: We’re social creatures first and foremost. Our most important habits of action—and most basic notions of common sense—are wired…

Book cover of Contagious: Why Things Catch on

Why this book?

Where my scholarly diet provided perspective to help me see the world differently, Contagious provided a means to apply this perspective to the ideas I put in the world.

Jonah Berger’s academic work explores the science of why we share what we share and how ideas catch on.

His book, however, takes a step forward and provides a framework that can be leveraged to help engineer ideas in such a way that practitioners might increase the likelihood of their ideas spreading.

This book helped me communicate what previously felt like intuition and empowered me to do so with a level of rigor that enabled me to solicit buy-in for unconventional ideas.    

Contagious: Why Things Catch on

By Jonan Berger,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Contagious as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why are some products and ideas talked about more than others? Why do some articles make the most emailed list? Why do some YouTube videos go viral? Word-of-mouth. Whether through face-to-face conversations, emails from friends, or online product reviews, the information and opinions we get from others have a strong impact on our own behaviour. Indeed, word-of-mouth generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising and is the primary factor behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.It is between 8.5 and 30 times more effective than traditional media.But want to know the best thing about word-of-mouth? It's available to…

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