Give and Take – Adam Grant

Give and TakeThis was a great book that I think covers something that people usually completely overlook. Giving to others. The book breaks down people into three groups: Givers, takers, and matchers. Givers end up being the least successful people in the work place with matchers and takers above them. But givers are also at the top of the success spectrum if you really look. Many people mistake successful people as being takers because the are more easily recognized and they promote themselves.

There are many benefits to being a giver including building your network and strengthening relationships between you and others. Takers and matchers build their networks as well, but only to benefit themselves. And if someone requests a favor of them, the will either not do it or expect something in return. Givers give for the good of the other person, which, ironically, is good for themselves as well. The balance is making sure that you are not giving and giving to the point where you cannot focus on yourself and do what is best for you. Givers who give without taking account of their own needs are the ones who end up at the bottom of the success ladder. The key do giving effectively is to “harness the benefits of giving while minimizing the costs” (p.20).

Minimizing costs can mean that you need to become a Matcher when dealing with other Takers. For example, a business owner’s partner was taking more money from the company than he was bringing in. The partner was a Taker and the owner realized that. Since the owner was a Giver, he talked to the Partner and let him know what he needed to do to bring in money to the company. When the Taker did not do that, the Owner became a Matcher and only paid the Partner when he brought in money as an ultimatum. When the partner did not bring in money, the problem solved itself.

Network of Weak Ties
Givers also have the benefit of creating a large network. With a large  network, you can build many “weak” ties to people. This is not necessarily a bad thing. With many weak ties, you have efficient access to new information and it opens up new networks to you (p.47). You must genuinely give from the heart to create these weak ties and then you must reach out after a while, clearly showing that you did not intent for this ask to happen. Otherwise you could be mistaken for a Matcher or a Taker.

Giving is Good for You
Giving is good for yourself as well. Stanford professor, Frank Lynn, studied a group of engineers at a large telecommunications firm in the Bay Area. He found that the Engineers productivity to went down when they gave infrequently. “The most productive were those who gave often – and gave more than they received. These were the true givers, and they had the highest productivity and the highest status: they were revered by their peers. By giving more often, engineers built up more trust and attracted more valuable help from across their work groups – not just form the people they helped” (p.59).

One way to build the trust of Givers, Takers, and Matchers, is to do great work on projects people don’t want to do. Takers can easily feel threatened when someone is good at the same skill. Matchers can respect your skill, but they won’t collaborate unless you take the first step. By doing great work on projects people don’t want to do, takers don’t feel the need to compete, Matchers felt they owe you, and Givers see you as one of them (p.75).

Inspiring Others
Givers don’t always have to be giving something away. They can inspire others to be better. A study led by Harvard psychologist, Robert Rosenthal, tested children from Kindergarten to Fifth grade on a Harvard cognitive ability test. “The test objectively measured students’ verbal and reasoning skills. The results were shared with the teachers and 20 percent of the students had shown the potential intellectual blooming or spurting. When the students took the same test a year later, the top 20 percent had improved more than the rest of the students”  (p.98). In actuality, the top 20 percent from the first year scored the same as the other students. The top 20 percent was picked at random, to make the teachers believe that they had a higher potential. The teachers beliefs created self-fulfilling prophecies. These same results were showed in the Israel Defense Forces by Dov Eden (p.98). The benefit of being a giver is that you give to all and end up finding many “Diamonds in the Rough” (p.103), thus creating a better team.

Finding Stars and Developing Them
Stu Inman was the GM of the Portland Trailblazers and drafted some great players. He is known for drafting Sam Bowie ahead of Michael Jordan, but he put together a group of mostly unknown players to turn the team from last to winning a championship in one year and they were a formidable team in the league for years after. As a giver, Inman believed in the potential of the players he drafted. It is important to remember the potential of a person and his Giver tendencies allowed him to not take credit for the talent that was coming in.

Self Interest and Care for Others
Finding the balance between giving to others and the needs of yourself is where you can be most successful. Bill Gates said “there are two great forces of human nature: self-interest, and caring for others,” and people are most successful when they are driven by a “hybrid engine” of the two. As Adam says in his book, “if takers are selfish and failed givers are selfless, successful givers are otherish: they care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.” The table below shows where an Otherish person falls on the self-interest and concern for other’s scale.

Give and Take Otherish Graphic

Not becoming a Doormat
They key of this topic is to remember that continuing to be a Giver pays off in the long run. Givers need to give to most people most of the time. Giving to give is great, but you can’t give away to takers and you must be vigilant about being taken advantage of. A good way to protect yourself is to keep an eye our for who is a taker (at may take a couple meetings) and to become a Matcher when dealing with them.

Thinking of the Long-Run
Giving helps you and your interests over the long-term while helping others in the short-term and long-term. Being an efficient Giver means finding out what other people need and helping them get it. That helped propel Jamie Dimon in his career (as you can read in our blog post on the book, Last Man Standing, about Jamie Dimon’s career). When it comes to signing sports players, smart negotiators get what is best for the other person without much loss to themselves. Derek Sorenson is a sports negotiator and he rescinded his low-ball offer to one of his newest players to give the player a higher-paying contract. As he says in his own words, “while I gained a short-term benefit by taking, in the long run I paid. My relationship with the colleague was ruined and it caused the demise of my reputation.” When he went back and changed the offer, it built goodwill and the agent called him again when the player was up for free-agency (p.253).

Other Takeaways
Psychological Safety – The belief that you can take risk without being penalized. This leads to more innovation.
Perseverance – “I’d rather be defined by perseverance then by whether or not I passed an exam” (p.103) – Marie Arcuri, who was pushed and inspired by her professor to pass the CPA exam. This was her realization after she saw her professors commitment to making sure she passed.
Developing Talent – Be careful not to continue giving into a losing investment. Players who are drafted higher in the NBA draft get more playing time regardless of if they perform better than another player. (p.117)
Pratfall Effect – Be an expert and human to build trust. A crowd doesn’t trust someone if they have average knowledge on a topic and if they are human. A crowd doesn’t trust an expert who is not human, as they feel to distant. You must combine both.


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