Give and Take Book Summary
Organizational psychologists like Adam Grant expertly dissect workplace dynamics, revealing secrets to success and behavioral patterns for getting the most out of your employees, coworkers, and everyday tasks. In his 2013 book, Give and Take: Why helping others drives our success, Grant explores how we interact with one another and how these behavioral patterns influence our outcomes. He compiles extensive research and exhilarating real-world accounts that are meant to inspire a paradigm shift in the way we behave in our professional lives.
What is success made of?
Most people assume that success – in the workplace and beyond – is composed of 3 different elements: motivation, ability, and opportunity. That’s not a bad definition. It certainly seems worthy of a high school textbook, but it leaves out one very critical element: how you deal with other people or, as Grant calls it, your reciprocity style.
3 Social Styles
Reciprocity style is academic lingo for describing how you interact with people around you, and Grant breaks down these behavioral tendencies into three groups: Takers, Matchers, and Givers.
These styles tackle everything from core values and motivations to daily behaviors and attitudes. Because these social tendencies are so pervasive, we take them with us wherever we go and while you might not be immediately aware of what category you fit into, chances are the people you work with have already picked up on your style type.
Uh oh! Feeling like you don’t fit into one category?
That doesn’t make you a freak. It’s perfectly normal. In different settings or stages of life, you may fluctuate between different reciprocity styles. Just notice when and where one dominant style appears in your life.
These three reciprocity styles are everywhere we look – jobs, homes, families, politics, churches, and beyond.
You wouldn’t necessarily want to own up to your reciprocity style by featuring it on your resume or sing it from the rooftops. Looking at yourself with such an objective lens doesn’t always reveal something drop-dead gorgeous – sometimes you just want to drop dead. Still, Grant suggests that everyone can increase their giver behavior and givers can learn to be more intelligent with their generosity.
Not to mention that studies have a lot to say about which particular social style comes out on top…and I bet it’s not what you were expecting.
Which reciprocity style is most successful?
As the youngest tenured and highest-rated professor at Wharton, Grant often uses the students in his class as a barometer for social assumptions. When asked to rank each reciprocity style in terms of likelihood to succeed here is what his students predicted: Givers at the bottom and an equal mix of Matchers and Takers on top.
Makes sense, right?
Actually, Grant’s research tells a much different story.
His research illustrated that both the top and bottom of the success ladder were populated by the same reciprocity style: Givers, while Takers and Matchers were more likely to land in the middle. But one very important characteristic separated givers that soared and Givers that got left behind.
What separates the givers at the top and those at the bottom?
“Success involves more than just capitalizing on the strengths of giving: it also requires avoiding the pitfalls”
Though they share the same reciprocity style, givers don’t all perform at the same level, far from it. Some givers experience enormous success while others barely get their wings off the ground, some are on fire, while others burn out. Many people avoid acting as a giver in the workplace for fear of becoming a doormat, being taken advantage of, being too empathetic, trusting, or timid. In fact, selfless qualities such as these are exactly what stunts some givers on their path to success.
Grant’s research found that successful givers aren’t just more other-oriented than their peers, but they are also more self-interested. They value the greater good and they value their own interests and needs. They are altruistic and ambitious, and that ability to put themselves on their own priority list is what prevents them from getting steam-rollered, burnt out, and left behind.
“The difference between givers at the top and the bottom of the food chain is that successful givers match their desire to help others with an ambitious goal of their own.”
Grant refers to this as the ability to be “other-ish”, rather than selfless. It’s the ability to employ a more flexible reciprocity style, and to adapt matcher tendencies when you find yourself confronted with a taker. Givers were are able to be other-ish, are positioned for success and are able to do well for themselves by doing good for others.
Give and Take: Actions for Impact
Grant’s goal in writing the book was to prove to his students that acting as a Giver can bring as much or more success than acting as a taker. He also suggests a number of ways to encourage everyone within your organization or social network to ramp up their giver tendencies.
Here are his suggestions:
- Test your Giver quotient
- Run a reciprocity ring to encourage sharing and support within an organization
- Help other people craft their jobs, or craft your own to incorporate more giving
- Be willing to do a 5-minute favor for anyone, regardless of the value they can provide to you in return
- Join a community of givers (such as Freecycle, ServiceSpace, or HelpOthers)
- Launch a personal generosity experiment
- Fund a project on Kickstarter or GoFundMe
- Seek help more often
What did you think of this Give and Take book summary? What’s one action or attitude you can adopt to become more of a Giver in your workplace?
Tell me about it in the comments section below!
All the best,
Book Title: Give and Take: Why helping others drives our success
Author: Adam Grant
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Release Date: 2013
Buy the Book: Amazon I Barnes & Noble
Connect with the author: Facebook I Twitter I YouTube I GoodReads