Give and Take, by Adam Grant

adam-grant-give-and-takeThere are givers and there are takers. There are winners and there are losers. There are the selfish and there are the selfless. We have stereotypes for all of these, and we’ve all encountered someone who has personified each. But things aren’t quite that simple.

In Give and Take, Adam Grant walks us through a thoughtful analysis of reciprocity styles and their relation to success. Do you need to be selfish to be successful? Is being generous a bad strategy? The answers, of course, are not that simple. The book provides compelling examples of selfless people who are successful — not in spite of their generosity, but because of it. Nice guys and gals do finish first. Sometimes. Similarly, the book shows that selfish people do achieve great success, and then fail catastrophically. Sometimes.

So, what makes the difference? As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle. The stereotypes don’t exactly hold true. And flipping them on their heads is interesting, but not a complete answer either – though these examples do provide clues. And those clues lead to the the threads that tie Grant’s thesis together and provide the framework for understanding reciprocity styles and their link to success.

Grant presents interesting real life stories to bring his ideas to life, backed by significant amounts of social science research (much of it original research that he’s conducted). The stories are engaging and the overall narrative of the book reveals ideas thoughtfully and coherently. It’s an easy read that provides a good framework for exploring ideas of generosity and how it can fuel success for you and those around you. Another book that reveals significant weaknesses in old-school zero-sum thinking for business and personal success, Give and Take explains how a more generous approach can lead to greater success.