Author: Adam M. Grant, Ph.D.
Publisher: Viking Adult
Release Date: April 9, 2013
Genre: non-fiction, psychology, business, self-help
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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"Focus attention and energy on making a difference in the lives of others, and success might follow as a by-product."
When it comes to business ethics, we tend to believe that self-interest is the only possible road to success: we are under the general impression that in a 'dog-eat-dog' world, those who combine motivation and abilities with a good dose of self-protective opportunism will put their own interests ahead of other people's needs, take more than they give, and, in doing so, rise to the top of the success ladder, faster, more steadily, and more profitably than anybody else. Not according to Adam Grant, youngest tenured professor at The Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania), world's top forty business professor under forty, and award-winning researcher.
As an advocate of positive psychology, Grant argues that greed doesn't ultimately lead to success. There is a fourth element we need to consider when analyzing the ingredients of a successful career: hard work, talent, and luck are not the only driving forces fueling high performances and productiveness. The way we interact with other people in our work environment (whether with a creative generosity and positive attitude, or with a self-centered reciprocity and self-protective ambition) is what truly defines us in our profession. Since we spend a considerable amount of our time (if not most of it) doing our job, our work becomes a fundamental part of who we are. We may, therefore, need to adopt in the workplace the same positive and altruistic values we normally reserve to our personal relationships (friendship and marriage).
Examining professional interactions across diverse lines of work, the Wharton professor claims that we can be divided in three different behavioural categories:
Takers are self-focused, competitive, and always ready to get as much credit for their efforts as possible. Givers, on the contrary, act in the general interest, helping others and providing mentoring. They share time, ideas, skills, and connections, in a true team spirit. Matchers place themselves between the opposite ends of the behavioral spectrum: they are the ones who will pursue fairness, taking as much as they give. The lines between these three reciprocity styles are not always well defined, but it's safe to say that in the course of our careers we all develop a primary approach. Experience teaches us that altruism and affability on the workplace aren't regarded as indicators of talent and strength, they rather overshadow Givers' true potential, compromising their own success, and letting dominant behaviors advance for job promotions and higher paychecks. But is that always the case?
With the support of a plethora of emblematic examples, anecdotes, and theoretical thinking rooted in organizational psychology (the study of human behavior within an organization, group, or class), Grant goes on demonstrating why Takers are not necessarily the strongest and most successful performers, and how, in our digital era and deeply interconnected world, those who strive to help others have the potential to become incredibly successful achievers, a rare breed of people capable of creating value for themselves while maximizing opportunities for the benefit of a group, team, community. 'Giving' is professionally risky, but when it is motivated by a genuine interest and structured in a creative and intelligent form (using persuasion, networking, motivation, negotiation, communication), the positive effects of such a business ethic cascade and spread, generating, in their wake, consensus and emulation.
Unlike many business manuals, and despite the impressive preparation of this author in matter of business psychology, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success doesn't suffer the drawbacks of academic formality. Grant's writing, although always elaborated and robust, is eloquent without being tedious, informative without being overwhelming. His bold reasoning is ultimately inspiring and uplifting, if not always realistic.
Beware: after reading this study, you may seriously reconsider your own assumptions about success.