It was a forwarded article in The New York Times that piqued my interest in Professor Adam Grant and his work. I was curious because he is a Wharton management professor and the topic, as laid out in the article, was something quite interesting to me. As soon as I finished the article—which speaks of his book, Give and Take, and how Grant spends hours on email helping people and responding to questions—I decided to test that out. I sent him an email introducing myself and asking whether he would be visiting the Bay Area.
I was pretty sure I would not get a response—I mean this was a New York Times article, and the man was doing book tours with several stops across the country. But sure enough, within 24 hours I had a short, but precise response on when he would be in town
and that he would love to meet and chat at his book signing event in Menlo Park, CA.
Needless to say, I was sold. My time spent at his talk and on Give and Take was probably my most productive so far in trying to understand workplace motivation and career growth in the context of my world view and my notions of right and wrong. He’s an amazing speaker and a witty writer.
I don’t want to steal the book’s thunder, but at a high level it classifies people into givers, takers and matchers. An interesting statistic is that at the top of the corporate “success” ladder and at the bottom, you find an abundance of givers. The book then goes through several ways in which you can find your way up if you are a giver.
An interesting question is whether, if you are a real giver, you identify yourself as such. This could also be a reason why, for most practical purposes, most of us are matchers. We like to keep score of what we have done for others, and what we got in return.
I, for one, have been amazed at how often people remember even small favors you have done for them and how they go out of their way when you need help. For instance, I volunteered with a nonprofit for several years, and some of the other volunteers asked me for recommendation letters for business schools, which I gladly wrote.
After several years, when I applied to Wharton’s MBA for Executives program, all of these folks were more than willing to share their experiences with me, connect me with others and help me through the process.
Needless to say, I definitely recommend adding Give and Take to your summer reading list.