5 books on relationship capital you need to read right now

The Brief 
Though not all of these books are about relationship capital per se, each has its own lessons to teach on the importance of building strong networks at both the social and professional level. From a pop-psychology classic to an HBO inspiration, here are five must-reads for anyone looking to build up or leverage their connections.

Social Physics: How Good Ideas SpreadThe Lessons From a New Science
By Alex “Sandy” Pentland


Everyone’s making a big deal about Big Data. Despite its more sinister Big Brother connotations, the massive glut of info that is constantly being collected on all of us—from cell phone records to GPS coordinates—can also work for good, helping us understand how ideas spread. Pentland and his MIT team, for example, discovered that humans order their behavior based on social incentives, rather than their individual self-interest. Their work has implications for optimizing company structure to enhancing collaboration.

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
By Adam Grant


Are you a giver, taker or matcher? Wharton prof Adam Grant’s treatise on generosity of spirit contradicts the adage that nice guys finish last. Well, okay, sometimes they do, but they actually finish first most of the time. Grant delves into psych studies and individual profiles to demonstrate the surprising effect that giving of one’s time or energy has on people and communities. According to Grant, the more you give (without expectation of any return), the more relationship capital you accrue—and the more promotions, business and general success you achieve. 

How to Win Friends & Influence People
By Dale Carnegie


An oldie but a goodie. Carnegie’s timeworn guide on human relations, originally published in 1936, may be quaint in style and turns of phrase, but it’s a prototype for the understanding of relationship capital. Working from the premise that we’re all basically obsessed with ourselves, Carnegie expounds on the benefits of active listening, courtesy and most important, empathy for creating a network of friends and supporters. 

Achieving Success Through Social Capital: Tapping the Hidden Resources in Your Personal and Business Networks 
By Wayne Baker


Among the list, this one is the most directly tied to relationship capital. Baker, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, offers a step-by-step, hyper-detailed guide for building and leveraging your personal and professional network, including a great section on the power of reciprocity. The information is tailored to corporate execs and those with an entrepreneurial spirit, so you’re sure to find something here you can use. 

Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, and Corruption of Atlantic City
By Nelson Johnson


What does an account of high-rolling, freewheeling Atlantic City have to do with our favorite topic? As Johnson’s excellent book, the basis for the HBO drama of the same name, makes abundantly clear, nothing gets done without a network, even if that network is comprised of dirty pols and outright criminals. This book might not describe the most ethically sound example of the power of connections, but sure makes a strong case, crediting the rapid rise of a barren stretch of beach into one of the premier tourist destinations on the East Coast to backroom deals across every societal stratum.

RelSci helps leading organizations understand and get in front of those outside of their networks through their relationship capital with influential decision makers. Can we help you drive impact?

1 thought on “5 books on relationship capital you need to read right now”

  1. I would have to recommend Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” over Dale Carnegie, or at least, on the same bookshelf. I’ve given out easily 50 copies of that book, and it is FAR more modern and useful than Dale. Keith goes way beyond what I would normally do, but take any 10 random pages, and you will instantly find a dozen ways to increase your relationship capital.
    In my upcoming book, The Gen Z Effect, while we don’t call out relationship capital explicitly, we do talk about mapping influence, and how that is far more powerful and sustainable than simply throwing money (advertising, time spent cold-calling, etc.), as traditional “affluence” based organizations would do.
    Back in 2004, I was writing about what I called “relationship intelligence” as the next offshoot of competitive intelligence, information intelligence and business intelligence. An archive of one of the articles from that time can be found at:
    Very curious what you’re up to – it’s an area I continue to be track heavily, and that most people (and organizations) are still very far behind what’s possible.

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