3 min read

The science of teams - our recommended reads

February 4, 2021

Books, lots of books

Saberr is a research-driven product company, where we research to understand how, and build products to help, people Work Well Together.

When we explain the concepts behind Saberr’s product, people always want to dig in and find out more about the science behind what we’re doing. Likewise when we talk about research, people always want to know what we’re inspired by, and what we’re still trying to learn about.

This reading list is an introduction to some of the science behind it all. The choices are pretty subjective based on what I’ve found myself suggesting to others — this isn’t a formal literature review, its a mix of academic and popular resources which we think are interesting background.

Personality and individual differences

What is that?

Individual Differences focuses on the whole person and their experiences. It seeks to understand the major sources of variation in behaviour, through exploring hidden constructs, such as personality and intelligence.
(from the Psychology Express book below)

If I were to read just one paper, which?

The Five Factor Model of behaviour (“The Big Five”) is widely supported and used as a framework for measuring personality for understanding personality differences affect other observed differences between people.

There are many good papers around that area, for instance this review article by John Digman: goo.gl/aAxZjp
Digman, J. M. (1990). Personality structure: Emergence of the five-factor model. Annual review of psychology, 41(1), 417–440.

Where could I find more?

I quite like this book, which is actually a revision guide so covers a lot in a short space, by Butler and Scurlock-Evans:

As just one example of why this is important in work and life, I’d also recommend this amazing TED talk:

Cultural values

What is that?


  1. are concepts or beliefs,
  2. pertain to desirable end states or behaviours,
  3. transcend specific situations,
  4. guide selection or evaluation of behaviour and events,
  5. are ordered by relative importance.
    (from the Schwartz paper below)

If I were to read just one paper, which?

I’d read one of Shalom H. Schwartz’s papers describing the development of his Value Framework, as this particular framework is widely used, and its development and validity are compelling.

Start with this one:

Quantified relationships

What is that?

Human relationships are not so alien that they can’t be measured. Their quality can not only be felt, it can be observed, assessed and predicted — quantified.

Where could I find out more?

Online Dating is a great source of inspiration for how relationships can be quantified. When done right, online dating predicts the quality of relationships between people.

Check out Dataclysm by Christian Rudder for more:

Looking at relationships and group dynamics more mechanistically (“how do they work?”) is also getting easier, since we’re each almost accidentally quantifying more or our behaviours and interactions through our use of technology.

Check out Social Physics by Sandy Pentland for more:

The broader picture: quantified life

The common thread throughout all of the above is quantification of ourselves: our lives and our interactions. You might well have heard of the “Quantified Self” movement, which suggests that readily available technology can help us measure, and therefore improve, our day-to-day lives. Give this 2012 article from the Economist’s Technology Quarterly a scan if you’d like a refresher.

<a href="https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2012/03/03/counting-every-moment" data-href="https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2012/03/03/counting-every-moment" class="markup--anchor markup--mixtapeEmbed-anchor" title="http://www.economist.com/node/21548493" data-tooltip="https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2012/03/03/counting-every-moment" data-tooltip-position="bottom" data-tooltip-type="link"><strong class="markup--strong markup--mixtapeEmbed-strong">Counting every moment</strong><br><em class="markup--em markup--mixtapeEmbed-em">THE idea of measuring things to chart progress towards a goal is commonplace in large organisations. Governments tot up…</em>www.economist.com</a>

Quantified Self practices can impact our personal economics (e.g. happiness, health, life expectancy) and so also our financial economics (pay and workplace productivity). A recent Freakonomics Podcast (& blog) explored this looking at the economic impacts of sleep. Give it a listen on your commute (not while you should be sleeping!).

<a href="http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-sleep-part-2-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/" data-href="http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-sleep-part-2-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/" class="markup--anchor markup--mixtapeEmbed-anchor" title="http://freakonomics.com/2015/07/16/the-economics-of-sleep-part-2-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/" data-tooltip="http://freakonomics.com/podcast/the-economics-of-sleep-part-2-a-new-freakonomics-radio-episode/" data-tooltip-position="bottom" data-tooltip-type="link"><strong class="markup--strong markup--mixtapeEmbed-strong">The Economics of Sleep, Part 2</strong><br><em class="markup--em markup--mixtapeEmbed-em">Our latest Freakonomics Radio episode is "The Economics of Sleep, Part 2." (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes…</em>freakonomics.com</a>

At Saberr,

We believe humankind’s next great accomplishments will come from better understanding our behaviours, our brains and our interactions.

That means helping people quantify themselves, their lives, and their relationships to be more productive.

Thanks for reading! Please let us know of anything wonderful you’ve seen or read, or ping us on Twitter if you’d like to know more about anything in particular.

<a href="https://twitter.com/saberr" data-href="https://twitter.com/saberr" class="markup--anchor markup--mixtapeEmbed-anchor" title="https://twitter.com/saberr" data-tooltip="https://twitter.com/saberr" data-tooltip-position="bottom" data-tooltip-type="link"><strong class="markup--strong markup--mixtapeEmbed-strong">Saberr (@saberr) | Twitter</strong><br><em class="markup--em markup--mixtapeEmbed-em">The latest Tweets from Saberr (@saberr). Use data to make better decisions about people. We build people analytics…</em>twitter.com</a>

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