Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Give and Take" - a Review

There are far too many useful business and nonfiction books are the market for any one person to read. But Give and Take - A Revolutionary Approach to Success by Adam Grant (Viking) is one I believe is well worth the time. Grant has looked at empirical evidence from many sources and discovered a novel idea: Givers can become wildly successful.

Unlike some books about success, this one is not full of hyperbole. And unlike some business books by professors -- Grant is a management professor at Wharton,-- this one does not drone on. In fact, Grant builds his case in an intriguing way, drawing the reader in with stories, surprising the reader with unusual outcomes, then explaining the paradoxical theory and supporting it with academic research. I wanted to keep reading to find out how Grant would turn each story on its head.

Give and Take really opened my eyes and got me looking at situations from a new perspective. The more I read the book, the more I recognized types of people I know and started to appreciate the Givers in my life even more. I also saw more opportunities to be helpful to others at random times. Now, I'm inspired to figure out how to start a Reciprocity Ring at my church. (Read the book to find out what a Reciprocity Ring is.)

The author does not just dwell on business and management. He uses examples from sports, education, grassroots dot-coms like Freecycle and Craigslist, finance, health care, and nonprofits, and he introduces several really fascinating concepts:

1. There are three types of people: Takers, Matchers, and Givers. Within those groups are subgroups. The Givers can wind up on the bottom, never getting ahead, or they can succeed so much that they wind up at the top.
2.  Givers who get ahead build loyalty and high-quality teams. Takers can be so self-centered that they drive support away.
3. Givers can help others to realize their full potential.
4. Givers who succeed use time wisely and do ask for help occasionally. Grant calls this being Otherish.
5. Givers who fail don't use their giving time wisely and never ask for help for themselves.
5. There's a myth about Giver burnout.
6. Takers can be generous.

But wait, there's more! Give and Take is worth reading simply to discover how Grant came to all these conclusions and to figure out how you can be more of a giver.

Full disclosure, I read this book for many selfish reasons:
1. I went to Wharton, and Grant teaches at Wharton (a little alumna loyalty).
2. I'm co-writing a business book and want to read other business books to see what will hold my interest and how principles can evolve out of anecdote. I wanted to analyze what made me like(or not like) the writing. (I really liked Grant's writing. Why?)
3.  I am on a nonprofit board for At Home in Darien, a nonprofit that helps seniors staying their homes. But seniors don't call us for help, transportation or handyman services. Why? They're all Givers. How can we get them to be Takers? (Adam Grant, if you read this review, please take on this question for further research.)
4. I've been on the pledge and the finance committees at my church, and I have often wondered why some people in the congregation give generously, while other don't. What's going on in their minds? How could we change the non-givers into Givers? I was searching for an answer. 

Not all of my questions were answered. But I came away from Give and Take with enlightenment and inspiration. The book was a complete pleasure to read, even on beautiful summer afternoons.