What We’re Reading
This spring, MBAs tackled the challenges that lay ahead in their careers and discovered why they found some teammates so challenging to work with. These four titles ranked among the seminar's more popular assigned readings, which drew from anthropology, linguistics, behavioral economics, and cognitive psychology.
Our current recommendations include:
Deborah Tannen, That's Not What I Meant! How Conversational Style Makes or Breaks Relationships. New York: Harper Perennial, 2011
Tannen's You Just Don't Understand sheds light on the differences between the conversational styles of men and women so strikingly and accessibly that You Just Don't Understand remained stuck to the New York Times' bestseller list for over four years. Of her successor works, That's Not What I Meant is perhaps the most valuable in illuminating the role that meta-messages play in communicating what we really mean. We rely intensively on indirectness in communication to permit ourselves safe zones and to avoid overt rejection. Tannen most usefully explores the differing forms meta-messages take in the workplace and between the sexes, all invaluable tools to bear in mind during your next job interview, negotiation, or even casual conversation.
Brian R. Little, Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Wellbeing. New York: Public Affairs, 2014.
In addition to debunking the accuracy of the beloved Myers-Brigg's test, Little focuses on how mutable our personalities can prove over different situations and time. Most valuably, the book features tests that enable readers to determine how they score on self-monitoring, internal versus external orientation, Type A or Type B personalities, and conventional or highly creative traits. Invaluable in helping anyone to understand organizational behavior, Little's decades of research and witty, accessible style illustrate how strongly our sense of identity, even when fluid, shapes our interactions with others in all forms of communication.
Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013.
Nobel laureate Kahneman draws off his award-winning work, some co-authored with the late Amos Tversky, to argue for our reliance on two forms of decision-making, what he dubs systems 1 (rapid and automatic) and 2 (slower and more considered). In brief, entertaining chapters replete with examples of systems 1 and 2 operating in daily life, Kahneman shows how we consistently rely on false assumptions about the accuracy of system 1. Most valuably, Kahneman shows how we can train ourselves to reroute our thinking from warp-speed, heedless system 1 to accurate, thoughtful system 2.
Frank J. Sulloway, Born to Rebel. New York: Pantheon Books, 1996.
MacArthur winner Sulloway relies on Darwin's theory of natural selection to depict the influence of competition for attention and control within families. Specifically, first-born siblings are generally more assertive, conservative, and readier to accept all forms of authority. In contrast, later-born siblings are more open to divergent thinking, novelty, creativity—and, you guessed it—rebelliousness than their elder siblings. After you finish Born to Rebel, you might understand why you clash with a later-born in the workplace or why two eldest children might not be an ideal couple.