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Give and Take (Book Review)

written by Pat Schwartz 18 June 2013

Pat Schwartz MAPP '12, a former Philadelphia school teacher and AmeriCorps program director, currently supports education-based and other non-profit organizations by working to empower staff and volunteers to recognize the impact of their hard work and commitment to those in need. Pat uses the principles of PERMA to engage trainees to recognize that well-being and hard work are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact a perfect match! Full bio pending. Pat's articles are here.

Nice guys finish last. No good deed goes unpunished. It’s a dog eat dog world!

We often repeat these adages reacting to challenges we face while working or even playing with others. But are they really true?

giveandtakeAdam Grant’s new book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, dispels the myth that nice guys are underachievers. He examines the importance of relationships and connections in both personal and professional settings. His focus is not just on making connections but on being generous with those connections. One might say: being the nice guy.

Today’s increased focus on teamwork, networking, and strong social systems has changed the dynamic both at work and at home. We interact with others more often and for more reasons. Simply, we need each other.

However, each interaction creates a choice. We choose how we communicate and collaborate with others:

  • Do we contribute our talents and skills without worrying about what we get in return? Do we give what we have with no expectation of reward?
  • Do we claim as much credit as we can? Do we take from individuals or the group as a whole for own benefit or promotion?
  • Do we contribute and support others in accordance with how we see others’ contributing? Do we match what we give with what we get?

Good Returns

In Give and Take, Grant examines three styles of social interaction. Giving, Taking and Matching describe a range of reciprocity behaviors used in various interactions. We tend to shift our styles depending on our situation, setting, relationships, or even our audience. Adam Grant provides the research to support the positive impact and benefits of giving in most circumstances. Despite our instinct to take or match in competitive atmospheres, the data show that givers rise to the top. Give and Take unveils the principles of giver success.

Adam Grant explores giving in four key domains: networking, collaborating, evaluating, and influencing. He provides true (sometimes familiar) stories and studies of how individuals reaped unexpected advantages by unconditionally providing resources, contacts, support, time, and energy with the sole purpose of helping another person.

Finding the Diamond in the Rough

Did you know that the most successful entrepreneurs, sales people, coaches, doctors, teachers, lawyers, managers, and even television writers are identified as givers? Give and Take looks at the impact of givers in the various leadership positions. They provide motivation for staff, mentees, and students to remain interested, overcome challenges and to continue to work hard and achieve. Givers actually cultivate grit by encouraging already dedicated students/staff to continue to strive for excellence! They see the potential for achievement and demonstrate commitment to those they lead.

Grant points out that both the most successful and the least successful tend to be givers. He explores what makes the difference.

Chump Change

Give and Take is not a ostrich-in-the-sand view of generosity. Grant reminds us not to confuse pleasantness with giving or grumpiness with taking. Givers and takers are found in all dispositions. Can you think of someone who might be called a grumpy giver? Perhaps a friendly or pleasant taker? Grant also presents vital information about overcoming the giver doormat effect by being sure to seek gains for all parties. Giving should not be at the cost of others, including the giver.

Actions for Impact

In the true nature of a giver, Adam Grant’s final chapter provides examples of practical actions to help the reader get started in applying the principles described in the book. Grant describes ways to fine tune your giving as well as ways to incorporate more giving into your daily routine. He even suggests ways to find more like-minded givers!

Give and Take looks at the importance of giving as the reciprocity style for a variety of fields. This intuitive book should be required reading for educators, lawyers, medical professionals, and business people. It dispels the myth that success requires demonstrating power over others and that the world leaves givers behind. The principles of Give and Take can be applied to any relationship both professionally and personally. Applying these principles could build stronger communities, businesses, organizations, and even neighborhoods!

Adam Grant provides the perfect combination of storytelling and research to enable the reader to apply the principles of Give and Take. He provides the groundwork for shifting society’s fundamental ideas about how to succeed!

Grant, R. (2013). Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. Viking Adult.

Photo Credit: via Compfight cc
Symbols of success courtesy of kevinthoule
A taking hand courtesy of Molly Sabourin
A giving hand courtesy of Refracted Moments™

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Kim Carter 18 June 2013 - 10:51 am

Nice review, sounds like a great book!

A thought provoking question popped in my mind as I read along…

In my experience, many successful leaders (though not all) come from large families or were involved with large groups from an early age. These children seem to learn communication skills that facilitate the development of a “giver” mentality while not becoming a doormat for others. They become champions of “win-win” solutions which leave a larger impact in their respective roles.

Two thoughts came out of that – The first being, are we as a society valuing these skills more as family sizes get smaller and technology isolates us from physical proximity with others? And the second, is that if early childhood experiences do indeed impact how we lead, follow, and work with others – how can we best grow those children, teens and even adults who have already spent countless years isolated with video games and computers?

I’m looking forward to reading the book…perhaps some of these questions will be answered! (Or more will “pop” up!)

Thanks Pat! (And Adam)

Angus Skinner 18 June 2013 - 7:42 pm

Thanks Pat for this excellent review. As you say this book, brilliant book, has applications across all fields. From opticians, who could increase revenue by some 20%, to management consultants of all kinds and to barristers. At times it has the beauty of simplicity.

Angus Skinner 18 June 2013 - 8:04 pm

Ach, I am hopeless with technology – Kathryn knows only too well! This comment was meant to include a question on potential applications in child protection. Specifically the notions of narcissism and vanity, who to spot these. Very relevant of course in business (Enron as Grant spells out) but also in all fields. Saville is a case in mind but many hoers, dominating their fiefdom in small areas. Glad to know of any interest in this – any research? Any thoughts.

kare anderson 22 June 2013 - 12:49 pm

Pat, what a pithy review, with actionable tips. I, too, found Grant’s book helpful and offer some more tips from it here http://www.forbes.com/sites/kareanderson/2013/04/01/surprising-secret-to-a-satisfying-and-successful-life-with-others/


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