Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Give and Take - Why Helping Others Drives Our Success" by Adam Grant - A Brilliant and Wise Book



"Give And Take" by Adam Grant is one of the most impactful books I have read in the past year.  My copy of the book arrived in the mail as a gift from a friend who lives and works in Asia.  Along with the book came a note that included these words: "Chapter 2 tells the story of Adam Rifkin who emotionally gives his time to others with no expectation of return.  This is you."  Needless to say, I could not wait to read about Mr. Rifkin and the others whose stories are told so beautifully in this carefully researched and well written work by Wharton's top professor.

The main thesis of Mr. Grant's book can be discerned from the subtitle: "Why Helping Others Drives Our Success."  He offers numerous vignettes and statistical analyses to demonstrate a truth that may seem counter-intuitive to many.  The most successful individual in the business world are not takers, but givers who give of themselves while maintaining proper boundaries to ensure that they are not treated as doormats.

The epigraph that heads Chapter 2 states the author's premise clearly as he quotes these words from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:  "Every man must decide if he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." (page 27) The rest of the book fleshes out how these polar opposite principles work in the business world, using men like Silicon Valley uber-connector Adam Rifkin as positive role models and stories of those like Ken Lay of Enron as cautionary tales.

In a powerful chapter entitled "The Ripple Effect," Professor Grant differentiates between those who are geniuses and those who are genius makers:

"Reciprocity styles offer a powerful lens for explaining why some people flourish in teams while others fail.  In 'Multipliers,' former Oracle executive Liz Wiseman distinguishes between geniuses and genius makers.  Geniuses tend to be takers: to promote their own interests they 'drain intelligence, energy, and capability' from others.  Genius makers tend to be givers: they use their 'intelligence to amplify the smarts and capabilities' of other people, Wiseman writes, such that 'lightbulbs go off over people's heads, ideas flow, and problems get solved.'" (Page 63)

In a chapter entitled "Finding The Diamond In The Rough," Grant discusses the efficacy of identifying those with potential and investing time and energy and encouragement into these individuals, even while their skills and abilities may still be in an inchoate state.  The author uses another poignant epigraph to make his point.  This quotation is drawn from German polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: "When we treat man as he is, we make him worse than he is: when we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be." (Page  94)

This book should be required reading for every business leader and manager who wishes to succeed by enhancing the success of others while at the same time enjoying personal success. Whether you are by nature wired as a taker or as a giver, there are techniques and attitudes revealed in this gem of a book that can lead to revolutionary change in your personal life as well as your professional life.

Enjoy!

Al

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