For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.
Right from the start Grant takes a moment to address that being a giver doesn’t mean giving all the time. It doesn’t mean being a doormat and it doesn’t mean putting the needs of others above your own. Even though these seem like giving ways, Grant brings combines anecdotes, research, and popular stories from history to weave a different fabric that the best workers are made out of. It’s one of giving and how givers do certain things better that bring them an extra advantage.
One of the ways that givers get ahead is through better networking, and not in the traditional sense of selling something to someone. Givers rather, choose to help others and because they give and give, rather than take and take, they have a larger network. In the short run this means a bit of stagnation rather than moving forward but in the long term givers come out ahead. Givers win in the long term because they build up a larger network and help those people get ahead. If a giver needs to call in a favor then, they have a bigger balance of resources to draw from, and probably better results.
Grant also writes about how givers negotiate better than takers. In one study of student negotiators, the group trained as givers got better deals for themselves and their opponents. The researchers concluded that by shifting their thinking toward one of giving, these students were able to find creative solutions to the negotiation impasse they were at. They found things that were of high value to their opponent low cost to them. It was the research manifestation of the children fighting over the last lemon, both claiming they needed it.
Adam Grant advances the provocative proposition that givers enjoy a powerful comparative advantage over takers. His message is that the succeed-at-any-expense takers’ tactic is a dangerous, ultimately ill-fated success strategy. In particular, Give and Take is a searing indictment of the takers’ tactics of grasping, maneuvering, and manipulating corporate executives who literally take from their colleagues and customers; and who by their pursuit of egregious unethical misconduct literally take from their company’s customers, colleagues, and shareholders. The putative poster boy of this unsustainable style is Ken Lay, former Enron CEO, who exemplified that “takers may rise by kissing up, but they often fall by kicking down.”
At a time when marketing is moving from manipulation to meaning, when consumers seek the authentic over the plastic, when people more and more seek work that embodies their values and purposes, the implications of the message of Give and Takeare profound, for “There’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades . . . creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”