52 – Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

give-and-takeBook Title: Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
Author: Adam Grant
Chapter Book
Target Audience:
Non-Fiction, Sociology
Page Count:
Trade Paperback
Reading time
: 5 hours
Date Finished
: 2/09/17
Click here to find it on Amazon (New window)

My impressions: I was given a copy of Give and Take by my business partner – he’d read it last year and was so impressed by it he bought a bunch of copies to hand out. (We’re both professional researchers, so our standards for these sorts of books are pretty high – while we like writers like Malcolm Gladwell for their prose, we often take issue with their scholarship and application of data.)

What makes Give and Take a nice read is that it poses an interesting idea – that nice people really do finish at the top if they have an others-orientation – that’s well supported by a lot of cited research. There are a number of case study anecdotes and research summaries used to support the author’s points, and he’s interviewed some interesting lesser-knowns (like George Meyer of The Simpsons fame) to offer some human connection to his ideas.

Essentially, the book argues, most of us fall into one of four categories:

  • Takers, who are often motivated by desire for personal achievement
  • Matchers, who are often motivated by a desire for quid pro quo
  • Givers, who tend to be generous to others with little expectation of gain or reciprocity
  • Fakers, who act like Givers on the surface, but are actually Takers underneath.

While the book doesn’t differentiate between strong/weak versions of these categorizations nor discuss hybrids (many people are, I suspect, Givers in some realms and Takers or Matchers in others), it does provide some pretty compelling evidence that those of us who are inclined to be Givers tend to fare pretty well in life, provided that we don’t fall into the pitfalls of becoming doormats or suckers by being good for goodness’ sake instead of being generous because we genuinely want to help other people.

Reading the book, I was struck with memories of my own career where I’ve found that my natural tendency to want to give and create positive experiences has set me apart from colleagues who want to focus on their own trajectory and leave anyone they see as a hindrance behind them. It helped me realize that when I was a retail store manager, I was successful (and highly-ranked!) because I focused on giving rather than on selling; when I was a student, I was well-regarded because I helped other students study instead of looking down on them for not grasping topics as quickly as me; in my own professional life as a researcher, my clients appreciate that I come in with an attitude of wanting to help them to solve their problems even if it means not getting the job they asked me to bid on, not trying to sell my capabilities.

The book also provided me with a powerful reminder that my inclination to be a giver is the compass I should be following, not all the loud, self-promotional management books out there which focus on individual acclaim. According to the research presented in Give and Take, some of those people will go on to be successful as they trample over others, but those who function as Givers are much more likely to find lifelong success with a long history of others they’ve helped standing by to support them.

I like that. I enjoyed this book. And once I finish the author’s exercises in the back, I may well contact him and see if he’d mind a little dialogue to help me sort through some thoughts he’s provoked with his excellent book. I’m confident he’ll answer and be delighted to help – after all, he’s a Giver too.


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