Find A Speaker or Advisor

Tags:   +   +   +   +   +

Is it possible to organize groups in a way that generates high levels of innovation, cooperation, and productivity? And how can the science behind influencing group behavior assist in the pandemic recovery process?

For decades, renowned Yale social scientist, physician, public health expert, and bestselling author Nicholas A. Christakis has studied the evolution of human social networks. As director of the Human Nature Lab and co-director of the Yale Institute for Network Science, he and his team research patterns of human social interactions and uncover ways to move group behavior in positive directions.

“Our research shows that groups of people have special properties that do not exist in the individuals themselves,” explains Christakis. “Like carbon, which can be transformed by arranging atoms into the forms of graphite (which is soft and dark) or diamond (which is hard and clear), new properties can arise in a collection of atoms that are distinct. It’s the same with humans. You can take a group of people and connect them one way, and they are creative, cooperative, healthy, and happy. Connect them another way, and they have none of those properties. It’s not just the attributes of each person that matter. It’s how they are connected.

Nicholas Christakis, Professor of Medical Sociology in the Department of Health Care Policy, talks about the evolutionary significance of human social networks. Christakis has done work on social networks being significant for everything from smoking to obesity inside the center for Population Studies at Harvard University. Staff Photo: Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

Christakis and his team have studied influencers for over a decade. They discovered it is possible to influence offline and online social networks in ways that generate desired behaviors in such areas as health, wealth, cooperation, coordination, and learning. During his popular “Working Together” workshop, he shows participants how network science, game theory, and artificial intelligence highlight specific challenges groups face, and how to solve them. Using his lab’s breadboard software as a teaching tool, he actively demonstrates the science behind grouping people together in ways that generate optimal outcomes.


In February 2020, when COVID-19 began spreading across the world, Christakis realized the epidemiology of the pathogen was not being taken seriously. In response, he began writing his latest book, “Apollo’s Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live” (October 2020), which follows the likely path of the pandemic to its end. His early paper analyzing the pandemic’s threat was published in the prestigious medical journal Nature; the magazine later highlighted the importance of “Apollo’s Arrow” in its year-end book review.

Christakis’ long view on the pandemic – informed by his thorough understanding of the social and public health implications of past pandemics – gives organizations and individuals a valuable and much-needed window into what the future of work and life may be. An electrifying speaker and prolific writer heralded for breaking down complex concepts with clarity, Christakis takes audiences on a journey to the forefront of innovation and understanding.


“Nicholas was absolutely terrific. The room was at capacity – 3,000+ or so and everyone was engaged, enlightened, enriched and entertained by his talk. No one left the room. A grand slam and excellent opening for our Annual Meeting. Numerous compliments and great post-talk questions.” — Heart Rhythm Society

“Nicholas Christakis presented visionary ideas on how social networking can be utilized strategically to maximize business opportunities on many levels.” — Sysco


“A useful contribution to this initial wave of COVID books, sensible and comprehensive, intelligent and well sourced.” ― David Quammen, New York Times Book Review

“An instant history of an event that is by no means over. Exceptional. Magisterial.” ― Niall Ferguson, Times Literary Supplement

“Rich in psychological, sociological, and epidemiological insights, only Nicholas Christakis could write a book this comprehensive and profound and even optimistic during our national calamity.” ― Amy Cuddy, author of “Presence”

“Seldom have we been gifted with a study of pandemic disease marked by such scope, wit, and erudition. Still rarer is one that appears while the rest of us scramble to make sense of a rapidly evolving crisis, one shaped by the very social forces that Nicholas Christakis has studied for decades. ‘Apollo’s Arrow’ is more than history’s first draft. It will live on as a journal of the plague years, certainly, and it inspires as it instructs. Definitive, engaging, and astonishing. A tour-de-force.” ― Paul Farmer, Professor, Harvard Medical School & Founder, Partners in Health

“The world is ravenous for deep and accurate information about the most important event in the 21st century. No one is deeper than Nicholas Christakis, who ticks every box of expertise: medical, epidemiological, social, psychological, economic, historical. This is the place to go to understand the phenomenon that has turned the world, and our lives, upside down. ‘Apollo’s Arrow’ is gripping, enlightening, and vitally important.” ― Steven Pinker, author of “Enlightenment Now”

Social Networks For Good: How to Improve Digital and Live Interactions was last modified: February 13th, 2023 by Whitney Jennings