Part of wisdom is learning from others and integrating that information into our lives by applying what is applicable.
My hope is that you will be inspired by the summary to read the book. But if not, that this summary will spark an insight that you can implement in some way in your life.
This summary is the first of two parts.
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant
Who Is the Author?
Adam Grant is an American psychologist and author who is currently a professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania specializing in organizational psychology. He is the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School, having received tenure at the age of 28.
Grant’s three books are Give and Take, Originals and his latest is written with Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
Since 2015, he has been a Contributing Writer for the New York Times Opinion Section and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
From his book Give and Take he has co-founded a company that offers software that helps organisations implement the book’s principles.
He hosts the WorkLife podcast and serves on the board of Lean In, a company which helps women achieve their ambitions and works to create an equal world.
What is The Question the Book is Asking and Answering?
The book starts with a story about an overly kind investor losing a great project because the owner of the innovative concept judged him to be too affable. It seems to confirm the opinion that “good guys finish last.”
It’s acknowledged that success takes hard work, talent and a degree of luck. But also vital to our success is our interaction with others. Therefore the question is, “Do we try and claim as much value as we can, or contribute value without worrying about what we receive in return?”
What are the Foundation Principles?
Grant separates people into three different types, although as individuals we usually mix up our interactions between these, depending on the context, the person and how we are feeling at the time. However, we do gravitate to a specific style most of the time. The types are:
1. Takers — they like to get more than they give. Their view is that the world is a competitive dog-eat-dog world and to succeed you have to prove yourself better than the next person. They help others when the benefits to them are greater than the personal cost.
2. Givers — they tilt reciprocity in the direction of giving rather than getting. They reverse the cost-benefit analysis to takers, instead helping when the benefits to others exceed the personal costs, or they simply give (not necessarily financially) as a matter of course.
3. Matchers — especially in our professional lives, few people act purely as givers and takers but instead operate on the principle of fairness. They strive to preserve a balance ensuring that there is an equilibrium between giving and getting. Basically they keep score.
Of these three types who are the most successful? In studies of engineers, medical school students and sales people the worst performers in terms of meeting deadlines, cost effectiveness, exam results and sales figures were the givers! Yes, the givers.
However, the best performers were also the givers! Grant ends the story of the investor and the great opportunity which he lost. The guy with the start-up gave up more ownership in his business to bring this investor on board and has discovered what valuable advice and ideas he has. Giving did pay off.
The principle that Grant illustrates is that it takes time for givers to build goodwill and trust, but eventually they establish reputations and relationships that enhance their success. In other words, givers are not good in getting short term results but better in the long haul.
These appear to be the reasons:
· givers succeed in environments where collaboration and team work is required;
· givers have the advantage in service-oriented contexts;
· givers gain a learning advantage by solving other people’s problems and so expanding their own knowledge and skills.
However, there are risks to being a giver:
· people may perceive you as a push-over and not fit for tough and demanding leadership roles;
· you could be exploited by single-minded takers.
This is the essence of the concepts outlined in the book. The rest of the book looks at specific instances and people who give and take and the results they garner as a result. We will explore this in more detail tomorrow.