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Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success Paperback – March 25, 2014
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An academic, Grant explains that added to hard work, talent, and luck, highly successful people need the ability to connect with others. We learn givers give more than they get, takers get more than they give, and matchers aim to give and get equally; all can succeed. The author’s aim is to explain why we underestimate the success of givers, to explore what separates giver champs from chumps, and what is unique about giver success. Emphasis on teams and the rise of the service sector offers givers access to opportunities that takers and matchers often miss. In the first section, the author explains his principles of giver success, and, in the second part, with insightful stories he explores the costs of giving and how givers can protect themselves against burnout and becoming pushovers; helping others does not compromise success. Grant concludes with his hope that this book will provide his young daughters’ generation with a new perspective on success. A worthy goal for this excellent book. --Mary Whaley --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“Give and Take just might be the most important book of this young century. As insightful and entertaining as Malcolm Gladwell at his best, this book has profound implications for how we manage our careers, deal with our friends and relatives, raise our children, and design our institutions. This gem is a joy to read, and it shatters the myth that greed is the path to success.”
—Robert Sutton, author of The No *sshole Rule and Good Boss, Bad Boss
“Give and Take is a truly exhilarating book—the rare work that will shatter your assumptions about how the world works and keep your brain firing for weeks after you've turned the last page.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind
“Give and Take is brimming with life-changing insights. As brilliant as it is wise, this is not just a book—it's a new and shining worldview. Adam Grant is one of the great social scientists of our time, and his extraordinary new book is sure to be a bestseller.”
—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
“Give and Take cuts through the clutter of clichés in the marketplace and provides a refreshing new perspective on the art and science of success. Adam Grant has crafted a unique, ‘must have’ toolkit for accomplishing goals through collaboration and reciprocity.”
—William P. Lauder, Executive Chairman, The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.
“Give and Take is a pleasure to read, extraordinarily informative, and will likely become one of the classic books on workplace leadership and management. It has changed the way I see my personal and professional relationships, and has encouraged me to be a more thoughtful friend and colleague.”
—Jeff Ashby, NASA space shuttle commander
“With Give and Take, Adam Grant has marshaled compelling evidence for a revolutionary way of thinking about personal success in business and in life. Besides the fundamentally uplifting character of the case he makes, readers will be delighted by the truly engaging way he makes it. This is a must read.”
—Robert Cialdini, author of Influence
“Give and Take is a brilliant, well-documented, and motivating debunking of ‘good guys finish last’! I've noticed for years that generosity generates its own kind of equity, and Grant's fascinating research and engaging style have created not only a solid validation of that principle but also practical wisdom and techniques for utilizing it more effectively. This is a super manifesto for getting meaningful things done, sustainably.”
—David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
“Packed with cutting-edge research, concrete examples, and deep insight, Give and Take offers extraordinarily thought-provoking—and often surprising—conclusions about how our interactions with others drive our success and happiness. This important and compulsively-readable book deserves to be a huge success.”
—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project and Happier at Home
“One of the great secrets of life is that those who win most are often those who give most. In this elegant and lucid book, filled with compelling evidence and evocative examples, Adam Grant shows us why and how this is so. Highly recommended!”
—William Ury, coauthor of Getting to Yes and author of The Power of a Positive No
“Good guys finish first—and Adam Grant knows why. Give and Take is the smart surprise you can't afford to miss."
—Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness
“Give and Take is an enlightening read for leaders who aspire to create meaningful and sustainable changes to their environments. Grant demonstrates how a generous orientation toward others can serve as a formula for producing successful leaders and organizational performance. His writing is as engaging and enjoyable as his style in the classroom.”
—Kenneth Frazier, Chairman, President, and CEO of Merck & Co.
“In this riveting and sparkling book, Adam Grant turns the conventional wisdom upside-down about what it takes to win and get ahead. With page-turning stories and compelling studies, Give and Take reveals the surprising forces behind success, and the steps we can take to enhance our own.”
—Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations, Google
“Give and Take dispels commonly held beliefs that equate givers with weakness and takers with strength. Grant shows us the importance of nurturing and encouraging prosocial behaviors.”
—Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational
“Give and Take defines a road to success marked by new ways of relating to colleagues and customers as well as new ways of growing a business.”
—Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos.com and author of Delivering Happiness
“A milestone! Well-researched, generous, actionable and important. Adam Grant has given us a gift, a hard-hitting book about the efficacy of connection and generosity in everything we do.”
—Seth Godin, bestselling author of The Icarus Deception and Tribes
“Give and Take will fundamentally change the way you think about success. Unfortunately in America, we have too often succumbed to the worldview that if everyone behaved in their own narrow self-interest, all would be fine. Adam Grant shows us with compelling research and fascinating stories there is a better way.”
—Lenny Mendonca, Director, McKinsey & Co.
“Adam Grant, a rising star of positive psychology, seamlessly weaves together science and stories of business success and failure, convincing us that giving is in the long run the recipe for success in the corporate world. En route you will find yourself re-examining your own life. Read it yourself, then give copies to the people you care most about in this world.”
—Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Flourish
“Give and Take presents a groundbreaking new perspective on success. Adam Grant offers a captivating window into innovative principles that drive effectiveness at every level of an organization and can immediately be put into action. Along with being a fascinating read, this book holds the key to a more satisfied and productive workplace, better customer relationships, and higher profits.”
—Chip Conley, Founder, Joie de Vivre Hotels and author, Peak and Emotional Equations
“Give and Take is a game changer. Reading Adam Grant's compelling book will change the way doctors doctor, managers manage, teachers teach, and bosses boss. It will create a society in which people do better by being better. Read the book and change the way you live and work.”
—Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice and Practical Wisdom
“Give and Take is a new behavioral benchmark for doing business for better, providing an inspiring new perspective on how to succeed to the benefit of all. Adam Grant provides great support for the new paradigm of creating a ‘win win’ for people, planet and profit with many fabulous insights and wonderful stories to get you fully hooked and infected with wanting to give more and take less."
—Jochen Zeitz, former CEO and chairman, PUMA
“Give and Take is a real gift. Adam Grant delivers a triple treat: stories as good as a well-written novel, surprising insights drawn from rigorous science, and advice on using those insights to catapult ourselves and our organizations to success. I can’t think of another book with more powerful implications for both business and life.”
—Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle
“Adam Grant has written a landmark book that examines what makes some extraordinarily successful people so great. By introducing us to highly-impressive individuals, he proves that, contrary to popular belief, the best way to climb to the top of the ladder is to take others up there with you. Give and Take presents the road to success for the 21st century.”
—Maria Eitel, founding CEO and President of the Nike Foundation
“What The No *sshole Rule did for corporate culture, Give and Take does for each of us as individuals. Grant presents an evidence-based case for the counterintuitive link between generosity and finishing first.”
—Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, coauthors of Difficult Conversations
“Adam Grant is a wunderkind. He has won every distinguished research award and teaching award in his field, and his work has changed the way that people see the world. If you want to be surprised—very pleasantly surprised—by what really drives success, then Give and Take is for you. If you want to make the world a better place, read this book. If you want to make your life better, read this book.”
—Tal Ben-Shahar, author of Happier
“In an era of business literature that drones on with the same-old, over-used platitudes, Adam Grant forges brilliant new territory. Give and Take helps readers understand how to maximize their effectiveness and help others simultaneously. It will serve as a new framework for both insight and achievement. A must read!”
—Josh Linkner, founder of ePrize, CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, and author of Disciplined Dreaming¶
From the Hardcover edition.
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My background: I am in my 60s and I now read this category of book not for myself, but to assist in my mentoring of others. I spent my career in high tech, 30 years in Silicon Valley.
At the core of my negative reaction to this book is a difference in world view. The book claims that "givers are a rare breed of people" (inside of jacket). My experience is that they are hardly rare**, and there are daily reminders of that -- for example the response to the recent Boston Marathon bombing. What you see are many people who are _reflexively_ givers (no pause for calculation). Note: I am not denying the existence of "takers" and "matchers", but take issue with the book's estimates of their numbers as being too high.
The book's subtitle "A Revolutionary Approach to Success" reveals how divorced from reality it is. The characteristics of the "giver" have long been taught in a wide range of leadership courses -- the only thing new here is the name. The "Servant Model" of Christianity (and other religions) is often invoked in these leadership courses, including some by the US military.
The book even argues against itself: It opens with a study claiming that "givers" dominate the group of most successful people and later argues that this is not invisible. No matter -- much of the rest of the book is spent using examples to argue for the existence of such people. And much of what this book highlights as making someone a giver is misdirected -- in my experience, those actions are side-effects or peripheral to the core. Although working on this periphery might help with the core, my experience is that it is not very effective (analogy: Forcing a smile can somewhat improve your mood, but actually being happy is better).
The book seems to come from within a bubble where the "me first" culture is seen as normal and pervasive. Speculation: The author may be wrongly projecting what he sees in his MBA students as being representative of the business world and wider society. If you don't reside in such a bubble, much of what is in this book is tediously obvious.
The book is dominated by inept parables -- the type you might sit uncomfortably through during a church sermon from a mediocre preacher (except they are from the business world rather than the Bible). These parables have little instructive content other than "It is good to be a giver" and "Givers can be winners", but this comes only after plodding through a page or two or more of mostly irrelevant biographic detail. Many parables use such extreme cases that they can be regarded as only motivational. The parables didn't cover anything about leadership and character that I hadn't learned before going off to college, but then I grew up in the days when supervised youth activities were the exception and thus we had abundant opportunities to observe and practice.
One expects books of this category to be bloated with excessive repetition that is compensated for by a writing style that allows the reader to breeze through and get its few nuggets. I found the parables so annoyingly presented that I could not do this. Part of my annoyance is that the template for parables signals that they are inauthentic and manipulative. Part is that the stories are so single-minded and narrowly focused on "the message" that they avoid any analysis as real-world situations, thereby undermining credibility and relevance. Add to this that many come across as just a way for the author to flaunt the people he seems to know (a type of taker he labels a "peacock").*** I have used "parable" for the stories to emphasize that these are not "case studies", as one might expect from an author who is a business school professor, or even very simplified versions of such, but rather theology.
The book's presentation of Freecycle as exceptional illustrates the basic analytic failings of this book. First, Freecycle was just another creation of a community or corporate culture -- something that has long been a basic part of leadership and Organizational Psych. Second, Freecycle didn't really create anything new, but rather provided a much larger scale alternative to what had long been happening on a wide range of email lists, discussion groups,... And that sharing of physical goods had been a natural growth of the sharing of information on those groups, which had built upon ... Rather than creating a new culture, Freecycle was largely recruiting, and facilitating, people already well into that culture (and was much appreciated).
Interspersed with the parables are accounts of various psychological studies. If you have taken the normal introductory courses in Psychology and Organizational Psychology, or done equivalent readings, much of this will already be familiar to you, or at least unsurprising. And the presentation of these studies is motivational -- in keeping with the tone of the parables -- rather than analytical.**** I understand that an author may well want to include such material for newbies, but the book's format should allow more typical readers to easily ID and skip it. This book does the reverse.
The book makes brief and shallow excursions into how being a "giver" can get you into trouble, but I judge it to only be enough to alert the reader to existence of such problems, but not enough to provide real-world assistance.
Disclosure: I didn't read every page of this book. I read the initial chapters and then started a pattern of skipping a few pages and reading to see if there was anything worthwhile. My rating of 2-star (Amazon's interpretation: "I disliked it") is based upon its having been a total waste of time, and I was very tempted to give it only 1 star ("I hated it") because of its fraudulent promotion.
---- Footnotes ----
* Recognize that the publisher, not the author, controls the hyperbole in the promotional materials. I expect potential customers to recognize such as advertising and to be skeptical of its claims -- I down-grade the book only when it crosses a threshold of being misleading about whether one would want to buy the book. I have a different standards for reviews because they present themselves as independent evaluations, not ads.
** One should remember that the creation and growth of the Internet was powered by a vast community of "givers": people (and companies) freely contributing design, software implementations, tech support, computing resources and network bandwidth. Although the business school perspective on the free version of a commercial product is that it is a "gateway", the reality (personal experience) is that it is recognized that the conversion rate will be tiny and the motivation for making the free version available corresponds to what this book attributes to "givers".
Silicon Valley (pre DotCom boom) was routinely portrayed as being powered by honest partnering in contrast to Microsoft which was an abusive "partner".
*** Remember that a book review is not about what the author is or isn't, but what the book itself is. It is to help the potential reader make a decision whether to spend money and time on the book.
**** Caveat: One of my Psych professors cautioned that, based on the subjects in the typical experiment, the field would more accurately be called "Psychology of undergraduates at major research universities" (early 1970s). General awareness of this problem now has its own acronym: WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic).
5.[Added 2013-04-22] As an example of giving, the book describes a CEO who religiously writes thank-you notes after each meeting, _failing_ to consider the potential practical reasons for such behavior, which can range from the mundane to the strategic (or it could be OCD from childhood training). A note can simply be confirming contact details (eg for an activities log). The note may be primarily for the writer's benefit -- reenforcing memory of what was important in the meeting. The note may be an informal confirmation of what came out of the meeting. The note may politely set the boundaries on subsequent interactions -- something that may be different from the assumptions going into the meeting. ... This sort of narrow, distorted interpretations permeate the book, making it unsuitable even as an alternative to more traditional materials on this topic.
6.[Added 2013-04-26] What the book calls "powerless communication" has long been taught as techniques in leadership, negotiation and persuasion (and even interrogation). My inference was that the book was positioning this in contrast to an approach that emphasized _establishing_ dominance, possibly even bullying the other parties. If true, this is a Strawman: One of the basic lessons about leadership is that power based on bullying and related methods is expensive and fragile, if not illusory, and likely to be transient.
-- Douglas B. Moran
So, let me explain.
There are three broad styles of interpersonal dealing: taking, matching, and giving. Takers are those who try to take more than they give. Matchers are those who try to give and take proportaionally and conditionally. Givers are those who give more than they take. Takers are primarily self-oriented, matchers are other-oriented as a means to being self-oriented (I'll help you when I think you will help me) and givers are primarily other-oriented.
Here's the counter-intuitive part. If we look at the most successful people - the happiest, the most likely to be promoted, etc - they are generally givers, and if we look at the least successful, they too often tend to be givers. (Takers do moderately well, but over time, few want to deal with them. Matchers do okay too.)
This book is an attempt to explain why being a giver is a good 'strategy' for success, as well as under what conditions giving is a failing 'strategy.' First, the positive: simply put, people appreciate givers and giving often makes people want to give back. Since givers help others and often put others' needs as a priority, givers often garner (without deliberately trying - AND THAT IS KEY!) a network of support from others they've helped. Want to communicate most effectively? Ask more questions to others than you give answers, ask for advice, and be aware of how you can help others. Want to bring out the best in people around you? Believe in them by recognizing and appreciating their strengths and contributions. Want to be successful? Don't think of personal relations as zero-sum games (where others can only win to the degree you lose), but positive sum games (if you win, it doesn't mean that I lose, but we can all win together).
It sounds obvious, right? But it isn't. Even when we may be givers in our personal lives, we often become matchers or takers at work. Even if the success of a giving strategy seems intuitive, it is equally intuitive that getting ahead requires receiving as much as or more than you get, spending most of your time working on things that will obviously benefit you, and not spending more time assisting others at work than getting your own stuff done. But Grant cites a growing body of research showing that giving - under the right conditions - really is the best overall 'strategy.'
Of course, I said "under the right conditions." What are those conditions? Well, for starters, one must give with some sort of purpose. Those who don't see some sort of result from their giving often burn out. (So, fundraising telemarketers burn out less when they can talk with those who their efforts have helped, and teachers burn out less when they see what their more successful students go on to do.) Also, one must give to others and things that the giver is interested in. (Volunteering for projects and to help people I care about is much easier and fun than for those I care little about.) Lastly, one must watch out not to be exploited by takers, who can often seem like givers in their agreeableness, but be exploitative in the end. (And Grant gives some good advice on how to detect real givers versus takers who are good actors.)
So, all of this is what Grant calls 'otheerish giving.' Giving selflessly versus giving a bit selfishly is, Grant writes, what ultimately separates successful from unsuccessful givers. Give, but make sure one is giving with a sense of purpose, and to people and things one cares about. Give, but not when it comes AT THE EXPENSE of one's own projects.
And this is the one area of criticism I have for Grant's otherwise well-written and VERY interesting book. He doesn't do a great job distinguishing between matchers (those who give when they think there will be something for them in return), and otherish givers (those who give selectively). .On its face, I think I have an understanding of the difference, but the ideas are very closely related.
One other small area of criticism: does it make sense to urge others to give, but then point out that giving is a good strategy to success? If one adopts giving as a strategy for success, then doesn't that mean, in a sense, that they are takers (giving because they expect to gain more than they give ultimately)? Grant warns against this tendency, telling us that giving because one expects ultimate benefits - is often a self-defeating strategy that others can detect. But, doesn't the mere fact that Grant's whole point is to show that and how giving is ultimately a winning strategy mean that many people WILL adopt it somewhat artificially because they expect a payoff? (I don't see how its avoidable.)
Anyway, I did gain a lot from this book. Not only have I found myself monitoring some of my interpersonal dealings by the advice given in this book, but it's given me insights into what working styles many of my colleagues have (which affects how I deal with them). Very good book that not only conveys some very interesting research, but should be able to give people some good and usable advice.
Oh, and as a final teaser... chapter 3 explains why Jonas Salk - typically renowned as a giver for refusing to patent his polio vaccine - is actually a taker.