You asked, we answered! Our team has collected a list of books that guide and shape our business, our teamwork, and our transformative approach to volunteering. From entrepreneurship to social impact to psychological safety, this list will set you up to get the best out of life and work. We hope you enjoy!
Disclaimer: We are a team of readers, so we forced ourselves to pick only a few recent favorites rather than listing every book we love. If you want more, just let us know!
From Chris Jarvis:
If I had to pick one book that I’m obsessed with this year, it would have to be Behavioral Insights. This book is guiding the RW Institute’s major project this year, called the Nudge Unit!
The book’s key concept is basically that human behavior is not typically guided by considered or conscious thinking. Generally, 80% of our actions, decisions and physical movements are completely automated, relying on cognitive or unconscious bias. Any logic we ascribe to these actions is typically an “after the moment” logic as we try to make sense of why we chose to do ‘a’ and not ‘b’.
This phenomenon leads companies to design employee volunteering and giving programs based on an “imaginary” rational mind. Many corporate citizenship programs are full of friction points and lack the necessary motivators to encourage employees to voluntarily contribute time and money to important community issues. In contrast, the behavioral insights approach applies evidence about actual human behavior—rather than assumptions about it—to practical problems.
From Nichole Giller:
If you are not already following Edgard Villaneuva’s work, I highly recommend you start now. This book was such a game changer for me around how to think about the way wealth is accumulated and distributed in our society. Villanueva invites us to reconsider how wealth can be used to heal both ourselves and our communities. I’m especially excited about the new edition of the book coming this month which offers new reflections in light of all that’s occurred in our world over the last few years.
I am always amazed when I read something from decades ago that feels so incredibly timeless. This book is it and a must-read (in my opinion) for anyone wanting to contribute to a world that cares for all. Abdullah provides a framework for the evolution of our society and invites us to reimagine the world we want to live in. This book feels hopeful and inspiring – something I really appreciate at this moment in time.
This is a bonus recommendation since admittedly I have not read this yet. But over the last year I’ve become deeply interested in new ideas about the systems that govern our society. This book fascinates me and (I think) will encourage me to reconsider what economic success can look like. I’m no economist or public policy maker, but I do believe each of us plays a role in the health and wealth of our communities, one action at a time.
From Kelly Lynch:
This book is a thorough, analytical review of different approaches to empathy in the world – through education, art, communication, and more. It’s incredibly informative, incisive, personal, sometimes heartbreaking and wryly funny. The author has such a strong voice and guides you through the work in a way that helps you know them so well by the end of it.
Invisible Mind is by one of our favorite researchers, Lasana Harris. His work has helped us understand the extreme consequences of failing to do the hard work of developing empathy for others. Harris explains the reasons for some of the worst examples of human behavior and how it’s possible for change to occur. This is a realistic and hopeful look at humanity and how we can actively participate in “humanizing” others.
John Kotter is a leader in the field of change management and his ideas have been formative in my study and application of effective change management tactics in the workplace. This book outlines eight steps to positive change, which are accessible, intelligent, and practical. And, if you’re like me, you’ll find it inspiring! Kotter’s stories and examples remind me that I’m not alone in the challenge of leading change and achieving positive outcomes.
From Tessa Carrelli:
First book that comes to mind is one we discussed in my training when I joined the Realized Worth team! I had completely forgotten about reading it until then – Nudge by Richard H. Thaler; Cass R. Sunstein. I love the idea that you can use small techniques that can drive people to take action that is better for them, and the line we drew to doing the same while ‘nudging’ people to take actions that are better for society.
From Jessica Jenkins:
We are committed as a team to practicing what we preach, so we read books together that make us more effective in life and work. One of these books is called What We Say Matters and it’s all about practicing non-violent communication. Everyone reads this book when they join the company and we spend time at our annual retreats discussing the concepts such as how to identify needs, how to take responsibility for our own feelings, and how to communicate effectively. And we’re not the only workplace that reads about non-violent communication (NVC). Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella requires his executives to read about NVC too!
From Angela Parker:
This is another book that every person at Realized Worth reads when they join the team. Like all of Patrick Lencioni’s books, it’s an easy read told in narrative form that outlines extremely helpful concepts. This book in particular explains why meetings are often boring and unproductive and how to change that. Realized Worth bases our meeting style and structure on this book and we expect all of our team members to make sure we avoid “death by meeting.”
I’ll admit, I wish they would have picked a catchier title, but I love this book and read it at least once a year. It outlines a prioritization and goal-setting process that makes any ambition achievable. We base our annual goal-setting and individual team execution processes on the strategies outlined and we even apply simplified versions to our client’s Volunteer Champion networks! This is an encouraging, motivating and practical book useful for any manager or leader.
Last but not least, my absolute favorite book of the past 12 months – I’ve just started reading it for the third time! This is an older book, but it remains incredibly useful and applicable in our current social and political climate. Through first-hand stories and research, Robert Cialdini explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these principles ethically. He walks through six cognitive biases or subconscious reactions that are universally shared and helps his reader understand how to recognize the indicators of each. I use these concepts in my work and life every day and can’t get enough of Cialdini’s work!
We love to read books that help us design and implement meaningful, scalable and impactful employee volunteer programs! Got any recommendations for us? We’d love to hear! Please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.