Give and Take


(This is the first of a series of posts on Give and Take by Adam Grant.)

Adam Grant is a Wharton business professor, and his 2013 book entitled: Give and Take; Why Helping Others Drives Our Success is groundbreaking. His premise divides the human race (across race and culture, according to his research) into three categories: Givers, Takers, and Matchers. We’ve all met Takers, people who think mostly of themselves and value other people by how much they can gain from the relationship. They may not be awful people who lie, cheat and steal; they may simply be more interested in the receiving side of the equation than the giving.

Givers, on the other hand, tend to give often and without thinking much about what they get back. We’ve all met these people, too: they always have time to give advice or make an introduction for you. They are generous with recommendations: for great restaurants, resources for your needs, or ideas on how to work more efficiently. I’ve written about the Abundance Mindset before, and these people seem to share that quality.

Matchers are people like most of us: they give, to varying degrees, but they usually have a conscious or unconscious ticker inside that keeps track of what they’ve done for you. They expect, eventually, to get a return on that investment. I took the late shift so you could attend a family event; I’ll expect the same consideration when I ask you for a favor. We invited that new couple to our home for dinner, but they never reciprocated; they probably won’t get another invitation. I gave my sister an expensive gift for her birthday, but she gave me a scented candle for mine; I’m a little offended. You get the idea.

Matchers, according to Grant’s research, make up 55 – 60 percent of the general population; the rest is made up of Takers and Givers in about equal measure. Fairness is a concept that’s hardwired into almost every creature; even monkey and dogs get resentful if they sense unfair treatment. In order to live together peacefully and be able to conduct business, matching makes the most sense for us as a society.

What makes Givers different? How often do they get taken advantage of by Takers? Are they just naïve, or do they know something we don’t know? These are the questions Grant wanted to answer through research.

Grant writes “Being a Giver who enjoys helping others can be inefficient in the short run but surprisingly productive in the long run.” He found that givers do get taken advantage of; they sometimes have trouble with setting boundaries, saying no, and taking on activities that don’t advance their own goals or careers. They can be too generous, giving away the best opportunities, giving up what they want so others can have more.

But eventually, givers wind up building a network of champions who help them succeed as well. Grant’s research found that givers can change the culture, inspiring whole organizations to become more giving (even the takers, who may submit to peer pressure to give or opt out of the organization.) Takers can be geniuses, but givers can create geniuses by being generous with support, praise and opportunities to do and learn more.

The good news is that a giving mindset can be learned and built over time. Some of the methods (and benefits) may surprise you. More in later posts.

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One thought on “Give and Take

  1. Pingback: Selfish Versus Otherish | @work: a career blog

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