Book Review: Give And Take By Adam Grant

July 4, 2013

adam-grant-give-and-takeBob Sutton said of Adam Grant’s new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success that it “just might be one of the most important new books of this young century,” and proclaimed it was a book every leader should read. I strongly concur.

Adam Grant is one of the world’s most prolific researchers in the field of organizational behavior and management. Unlike the overwhelming majority of books on leadership and management, this one is actually worth reading because it is backed by several decades of excellent peer-reviewed scientific evidence on organizational citizenship, prosocial, and helping behaviors . This is a substantive read, but Grant weaves in real-life stories to support his evidence as well as any author you will find. I purchased my copy of the book, and it will be required reading in my MBA class this fall. I also bought it for my own daughter who is still in college and yet to start her career.

Grant’s research shows that all of us will assume one of three types of postures toward others: taker, giver, or matcher. “Whereas takers view success as attaining results that are superior to others’ and matchers see success in terms of balancing individual accomplishments with fairness to others, givers characterize success as individual achievements that have a positive impact on others” (pp. 256-257). Grant’s call to action for all of us is to “focus attention and energy on making a difference in the lives of others, and success might follow as a by-product” (p. 256).

Takers are selfish. Selfish people can win in the short run, but are much less likely to build a legacy of enduring greatness. When taker’s win, someone always loses; however, when givers win, their success spreads and cascades to others in their networks. But there are two types of givers, and Grant’s evidence shows that givers dominate the top and bottom of the success ladder.

Selfless givers give their time and energy without regard for their own needs, and as a result they too never achieve the lasting success. Otherish givers “care about benefiting others, but they also have ambitious goals for advancing their own interests” (p.157). The image below was adapted from page 158 in Grant’s book.

Otherish Givers

Do you want to achieve success in your life and career? I hope so. If you do, the evidence is pretty clear that by investing in the success of others, you make an important investment in your own success. Practice this posture and your success will be deeply rooted, rippling through the lives of those you work and live with.

Grant’s book earns my highest recommendation.

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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Comments (2)

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  1. Glenn Brooke says:

    Brett, I also recommend the book. I’ve been trying to pay attention to others’ behavior recently and discerning if they’re takers or givers. I’m beginning to suspect that most takers don’t have an accurate view of themselves. Thoughts?

    Bret L. Simmons Reply:

    Welcome, Glenn. I have to concur that the strongest taker I know is also very paternal. He truly believe that he is doing us a favor with his behavior. He is an off the chart narcissist. Thanks fo sharing. Bret