by Angela Herring

We once thought it took a genius to be suc­cessful, but this is simply not the case. “In spite of all the claims to the con­trary, suc­cess is a col­lec­tive phe­nomena: You are only suc­cessful because many of us think that you are,” said Albert-​​László Barabási, dis­tin­guished pro­fessor of physics and director of Northeastern’s Center for Com­plex Net­work Research. Hence the fin­ger­prints of suc­cess are spread around society, leaving detectable, mea­sur­able, and pre­dictable traces that sci­en­tists can now use to examine one of the most desir­able traits of the human experience.

On Monday, June 17, in an inau­gural sym­po­sium on the Sci­ence of Suc­cess, Barabási and his col­leagues across a horizon of dis­ci­plines will dis­cuss the many ways this emerging field can and will impact every­thing from pol­i­tics to internet memes.

The topic of suc­cess is diverse to say the least. While sci­en­tists first began inves­ti­gating the phe­nom­enon with respect to their own field, it reaches into vir­tu­ally every other sector of society. The same methods can be used to under­stand how an Olympic ath­lete gets the gold as for how a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date becomes president.

Because of this diver­sity, the tools and per­spec­tives vary, engaging social sci­en­tists, com­puter sci­en­tists, econ­o­mists, physi­cists, and math­e­mati­cians alike. The goal of the upcoming sym­po­sium is to bring these diverse com­mu­ni­ties together to expand the con­ver­sa­tion and its impact.

The day-​​long event is orga­nized by the Center of Com­plex Net­work Research at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity and will be hosted by the Insti­tute of Quan­ti­ta­tive Social Sci­ence at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity.

The speakers come from within and out­side of the U.S. and include aca­d­emic and industry leaders in busi­ness, man­age­ment, jour­nalism, and physics to name a few, and will dis­cuss a broad range of topics. For example, Duncan Watts, prin­ciple researcher at Microsoft Research, will examine the suc­cess of “cul­tural objects,” like movies, books, and music. An orga­ni­za­tional behavior researcher from Har­vard Busi­ness School will argue that leaders are usu­ally unim­por­tant and indis­pens­able for soci­etal growth, taking a close look at the few times when they aren’t. Authors Camille Sweeney and Josh Gos­field will dis­cuss their book, “The Art of Doing,” in which they inter­viewed dozens of “super­achievers” about their strate­gies for suc­cess. Northeastern’s Chaoming Song will dis­cuss the pre­dictability of sci­en­tific dis­covery based on the under­standing of cita­tion patterns.

Originally published in news@Northeastern on June 11, 2013