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Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

by Adam M. Grant

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8462319,742 (4.04)5
Using his own cutting-edge research as a professor at Wharton Business School, Adam Grant shows how helping others can lead to greater personal success. He demonstrates how smart givers avoid becoming doormats, and why this kind of success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organisations and communities.… (more)

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Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
The premise of the book is good but loses narrative energy in part.
The examples from the sporting field are hard to relate to for a reader outside of North America, and some business word examples are also very specific to the US.

( )
  moukayedr | Sep 5, 2021 |
Don't ignore this book, because even though it seems like it follows a lot of business/management book clichés, it's actually insightful and seems like it could be very useful in your career or personal life. It's structured like every other "improve your business performance in ten easy steps!!!" clone, but stick with it.

Danger signs:
- An extremely broad subject ("giver" personalities" vs "matchers" or "takers", who aren't as generous to other people or are downright parasitical)
- Cutesy chapter titles (goofy animal analogies like "The Peacock and the Panda", pseudo-paradoxes like "The Power of Powerless Communication", or bad puns like "Chump Change", which is about not being a doormat)
- Seemingly superficial rapid-fire transitions between evidence for the author's position (for example, chapter 3, which is about the power of collaboration, jumps from comedy to architecture to coronary bypass surgery to equity analysts to the polio vaccine to temperature perception experiments to spinal taps to wedding registries)
- Inclusion of possibly irrelevant historical analogies (is the trajectory of Abraham Lincoln's political career really a useful analogy for modern workplace interactions?)

And yet, Grant makes it all work. The book is one long paean to how important it is to be helpful to other people, and how even though it's easy to get trapped in thinking of life as an endless series of zero-sum games where someone else's gain is your loss, you should keep on trying to invest in your fellow coworkers/clients/human beings. Because even though sometimes you'll get burned by enabling people who consume more emotional/financial/temporal resources than they give you, in the long run you'll probably be a happier and more successful person as long as you can successfully balance your own needs with the well-being of the larger groups you're embedded within. Grant has lots of good case studies showing that while being helpful can sometimes backfire on you, such as if you're pathologically ignoring your own needs , helping people generates such positive mutual returns that, much like the evolutionary strategy of Generous Tit-for-Tat, as long as you look on the bright side of human nature you'll be surprised at how far you can go.

It's completely fair to be skeptical of such Pollyanna-ish positivity, yet I feel like Grant is correct to advocate for trusting in other people. While I would love to have seen some more longitudinal evidence (i.e., if givers come to dominate a company, are they vulnerable to an eventual influx of takers in the same way that an ecosystem is vulnerable to an influx of predators?), my experience in my personal and professional career has convinced me that successful groups are the ones that have built up interpersonal trust through exactly the mechanisms that he discusses here. E.O. Wilson, who is quoted here, once had a good line that "Within a group, selfish individuals always win. But in contests between groups, groups of altruists always beat groups of selfish individuals." Yet that actually understates the importance of altruism, because though givers can be exploited, the most successful people in groups tend to be the ones that have built up strong relationships through their assistance and advice. Context is everything when it comes to talking about human behavior, but even though it seems facile to link Teach For America and venture capital firms, Grant is very persuasive when he talks about the inspirational effects of helping people.

No business book would be complete without action items. Here are his end-of-the-book bullet points:
- Test your giver quotient by visiting his website to figure out if you're a giver, matcher, or taker
- Run a reciprocity ring that encourages helpful interactions
- Help other people craft their jobs
- Start a love machine (meaning try to institutionalize helpful feedback mechanisms in your organizations)
- Embrace the five-minute favor, because they cost you very little time but can be very helpful to the recipients
- Practice powerless communication, and take advantage of the psychological loophole that makes people more likely to listen to you when they think you're not trying to lawyer them into something
- Join a community of givers, and get inspired by them
- Launch a personal generosity experiment
- Seek help more often, because people enjoy doing favors for others more than they enjoy having favors done for them ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
A bit too long-winded, but a great message with lots of actionable material, especially in the last chapter. Some of the best tidbits are hidden in the footnotes, which makes it impossible to highlight on kindle. ( )
  helenar238 | Oct 31, 2020 |
I hope you don't get too sick of me posting reviews of books I had to complete for my course. I really did enjoy this one a lot. It had a lot of interesting facts and data/examples to show why helping others leads to win/win. It's hard out there if you are a manager and you have employees or bosses that are set to win and they want to make sure that you lose. Heck, I have to deal with agency officials at times that don't want to concede a point since that will be saying (to them at least) that they lost.

"Give and Take" starts off with Grant laying out a story about an investor and a man who had a great idea for a company (the investor's name was Hornik and the man who pitched an idea to him was named Shader). What I thought was interesting was that Shader felt uneasy since he thought that Hornik in a word was too nice. Hornik suggested he seek out other people and take his time. And Shader was worried that Hornik would spend too much time encouraging him instead of challenging him. Yes in the business world this is apparently bad.

From there, Grant breaks the rest of the book down into "takers" and "givers." I found out through my course work and feedback survey and other surveys I took am a giver. I am also a border crosser (means I go back and forth between groups and am a go to person to do that) and surprise surprise I am also more likely to hit burnout. And in fact my one instructor read through all of my surveys and gave me feedback that I am close now. This book really was eye opening to me that you can be a "giver" and not be taken advantage of and not be seen as weak. That you want to approach ever negotiation as a win-win and not do your level best to wreck your opponent. You do have to be protective of yourself though and not "give" too much of yourself away to others.

I loved reading that yes "givers" are more likely to land at the bottom of the success leaders, but also they are more likely to land at the top as well. I think it's all about how people perceive givers as the story above shows. In the end I loved that Shader went back to Hornik after realizing the other guy who was a "taker" was ultimately not who he wanted to work with.

Grant also provides examples of one of the biggest takers out there: Kenneth Lay. What's shocking is how many people knew what Lay was doing, but were talked down to and were not allowed to speak up. Lay was a classic taker and Grant shows numerous ways that he was first and foremost thinking only of himself.

One of my favorite facts in this book though is Grant showcases a famous lawyer named Dave Walton who used to stutter And he points out other famous people who used to stutter as well such as GE CEO Jack Welch, VP Joe Biden, singer Carly Simon, 20/20 anchor John Stossel and actor James Earl Jones. I used to stutter as a child and had a great speech therapist. I eventually learned to speak without a stutter, and now all of my colleagues don't believe me when I mention that I used to have one. I think that they just see the person before them, not the one who had to jump a lot of hurdles to get to where she is now.

So all in all, a great book that I think would enhance any class on leadership. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
A well written and researched book that shows that acting in a manner that looks out for others results in success. Not always, and one must still understand one's goals, but it works. Well worth the read. ( )
  Skybalon | Mar 19, 2020 |
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Using his own cutting-edge research as a professor at Wharton Business School, Adam Grant shows how helping others can lead to greater personal success. He demonstrates how smart givers avoid becoming doormats, and why this kind of success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organisations and communities.

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