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Book Review | Adam Grant | Give and Take

Written by: Bill Sherman on Tuesday, 23 April 2013, 7:26 PM


Dr. Adam Grant’s new book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, provides a masterclass on the concept of generosity. If you’re already a natural giver, you’ll be fascinated by his research on the science behind the psychology of giving. And if you’ve based your behavior around reciprocity, it will give you insights into the benefits of generous (but smart) behavior. I recommend this book as a must-read.

Give and Take is a much needed book, and I think it’ll make a big impact on two types of people:

  • Help givers understand how to be more successful with otherish mindsets (and minimize their downside risks)
  • Encourage “socialized takers” to try the give-first mindset

Dr. Adam Grant teaches at The Wharton School; he earned a Ph.D. in organizational psychology; and he has an impressive publication record.In this book, he has translated powerful (but sometimes dry) research into clearly illustrated ideas which are often very actionable. I recommend this book as a must read if you want to be successful in today’s interconnected world, where you can’t get anything done on your own. You need to understand otherish behaviors, so that you can give generously and receive much-needed help.

Key Takeaways

 Give and Take makes a very compelling case for generosity as a baseline behavior, because it:

  • Offers a very thoughtful (and accessible) exploration on the science of generosity
  • Explains how givers can experience burnout and recover from it. (I’ve been there and felt it.)
  • Provides a new vocabulary to articulate things you may already instinctively knew about human behavior (takers, fakers, matchers, selfless, and otherish)
  • Makes complex research very accessible (academic journal articles tend to be dry, even when they contain brilliant work!)

My Experience

The New York Times Magazine featured an excellent article about Dr. Grant and his book, so I ordered the book. A few days later, I started flipping through it at about 8:30 p.m., just after dinner. I was hooked by both the concepts and the clear writing. I didn’t put the book down until after 2 a.m., when I finished it.

My grandmother (who helped raised me) instilled the otherish mindset in me, but a lot of people told me “you can’t be that generous in business.” So, at the start of my career, I was socialized to be a matcher, and that made me less happy (and less effective).

In many ways, Give and Take felt like a spiritual successor to Tim Sanders’ Love is the Killer App. Tim’s manifesto focuses on how nice guys can finish first, and it helped me reboot to my nature–towards a give-first mindset.

I’m confident Dr. Grant’s book will help me make my otherish behaviors more thoughtful and more effective.

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