David Rand

Why do people help each other? How can we promote better cooperation at work, and beyond?

Expert in Human Cooperation | Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics & Management at Yale University

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David Rand | Expert in Human Cooperation | Associate Professor of Psychology, Economics & Management at Yale University
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

How do we get people to cooperate—even when pitching in means sacrificing time, energy, and resources? Ask David Rand. He’s a behavioral economist who studies the benefits of cooperation: essential for friendships, work, politics, and global issues. Specifically, he works to help align both individual and organizational goals for mutual gain.

David Rand takes an interdisciplinary approach to human cooperation. His research combines theory and experiment to explain the high levels of cooperation that typify human societies, and to uncover ways to promote better cooperation in a diverse range of situations. He is an associate professor of Psychology, Economics, and Management at Yale University, a member of the Yale Institute for Network Science, Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and Cognitive Sciences Program, and the director of Yale University’s Human Cooperation Laboratory and Applied Cooperation Team. He received his B.A. in computational biology from Cornell University and his Ph.D. in systems biology from Harvard University, and did post-doctoral research in Harvard University’s psychology and economics departments from 2009 to 2013. 


Rand has written articles for The New York Times, Wired, New Scientist, and the Psychological Observer. He was named to Wired’s Smart List of “50 people who will change the world,” chosen as a PopTech Science Fellow, and awarded Yale’s Arthur Greer Memorial Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication or Research. His work has also been published in journals including Nature, Science, Management Science, the American Economic Review, and Psychological Science, and has received widespread attention from a range of media outlets, including NPR, the BBC, The Economist, Scientific American, New Scientist, London’s Daily Telegraph, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Discover, Financial Times, and the Los Angeles Times.

Speech Topics

Corporate Culture
A Culture of Cooperation Promoting Better Cooperative Behavior at Work

Being helpful is sometimes viewed negatively, as if it were a sign of weakness. But having cooperative employees is extremely beneficial to an organization, and should be a main goal of management. Cooperative employees share information, cover for absent colleagues, meet deadlines, and keep things smooth and orderly. Conversely, non-cooperative employees put their own welfare ahead of the organization’s, undermine morale, and may even sabotage others to get ahead. 


Putting in extra time, effort, and investment isn’t always part of formal job requirements—but doing so helps the smooth functioning and productivity of any organization. So, how do we get employees to make personal sacrifices for the greater good? In this talk, David Rand shows how you can create a culture of cooperation at your organization. He explores how to foster social engagement and accountability, how we can effectively recognize and celebrate good behavior, and how to make requests for help hard to turn down. He explains how to maximize people’s sense that others are cooperative by cultivating and projecting a norm of cooperation. And he shows managers and leaders that it’s imperative to model cooperative behavior from the top down. People take cues about helpfulness from authority, Rand says. So if you want employees to be cooperative, managers need to be cooperative too!