“Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” is a book by Adam Grant, which explores the power of reciprocity in personal and professional relationships.
The book explores how our success is influenced by our style of social interaction—giving, taking, or matching. It argues that givers, or those who contribute to others selflessly, are often the most successful, challenging the conventional ‘taker’ approach to personal and professional achievement.
Give and Take Summary
Grant, a respected organizational psychologist, classifies people into three categories based on their reciprocity styles: givers, takers, and matchers.
- Givers are those who contribute to others without expecting anything in return,
- takers aim to get as much as possible from others, and
- matchers balance giving and taking, maintaining an equilibrium.
Grant posits that while our intuition might suggest that takers climb to the top of the success ladder, it is often the givers who achieve the greatest success in the long run.
The first part of the book delves into the dynamics of each reciprocity style and how they function in the workplace.
Givers, Grant argues, often go unnoticed as they foster a collaborative environment, which can lead to their being taken advantage of by takers. However, givers tend to build broader networks, possess high levels of social capital, and inspire trust and cooperation in others, which can lead to better team outcomes and personal success.
On the other hand, takers may rise quickly but often fall hard due to the erosion of trust and support from their peers.
Matchers, meanwhile, tend to operate on a principle of fairness and quid pro quo, which can lead to middling performance—neither rising to the top nor falling to the bottom.
In his exploration of givers, Grant reveals that not all givers are alike.
He distinguishes between “otherish” givers, who give with the interests of others in mind while also maintaining their own interests, and “selfless” givers, who give without consideration for their own needs.
It is the “otherish” givers who tend to be the most successful, as they are strategic in their altruism, ensuring that their generosity also aligns with their personal or organizational goals. They avoid the pitfalls of burnout and being exploited by takers, which often happens to selfless givers.
This nuanced view of giving underscores the importance of maintaining personal boundaries while being generous.
The impact of giving and taking behaviors is not limited to individual success but also extends to the organizational level.
Grant demonstrates through various case studies and research that a culture of giving can lead to higher productivity, morale, and efficiency.
Companies that encourage mentoring, sharing credit, and helping colleagues tend to outperform those that do not. Grant suggests that leaders should foster an environment where givers can thrive, by protecting them from burnout, encouraging collaboration, and ensuring that takers do not exploit the generosity of others.
This approach can lead to a positive cycle of giving that benefits the entire organization.
Finally, “Give and Take” offers practical advice on how individuals can cultivate a giving mindset to enhance their own success.
Grant provides strategies for individuals to become more “otherish” in their giving, such as seeking out win-win situations that benefit themselves and others, learning to screen for takers to avoid being exploited, and networking with the intention of finding ways to help others.
He encourages us to adopt a more giving approach not just for altruistic reasons, but because it is a pathway to personal and professional fulfillment and success.
Also Read: Chasing The Scream Summary and Key Lessons
1. Success is Deeply Intertwined with Reciprocity Style
Our style of social interaction—specifically how we approach giving and taking—can significantly influence our professional success and personal fulfillment.
Adam Grant’s categorization of people into 3 kinds provides a framework for understanding our actions and their long-term impact.
While takers might seem to succeed in the short term by aggressively pursuing their own interests, they often fail to build the social capital necessary for long-term success. Matchers maintain a balance, but they can also miss opportunities for growth by sticking to a transactional approach.
However, the key is to give intelligently—offering help in a way that is high value for the person receiving it but low cost to the giver, hence avoiding burnout. The lesson here is that by being strategic in our giving—helping others in ways that also align with our interests and abilities—we can enhance our own success and well-being.
2. Creating a Culture of Giving Leads to Organizational Success
The benefits of a giving culture extend beyond the individual to entire organizations.
Companies that nurture a giving culture tend to outperform those that don’t. Grant provides evidence that when organizations encourage employees to help each other, share knowledge, and collaborate, they see improvements in efficiency, quality, and innovation.
This is because a giving culture fosters a supportive environment that can lead to increased morale, reduced turnover, and greater employee engagement.
For organizations, the takeaway is to promote and protect a giving culture by encouraging mentorship, recognizing collaborative efforts, and instituting measures to prevent takers from exploiting givers.
Leadership should lead by example in giving, and create systems that encourage and reward giving behaviors.
Such environments not only attract talent but also retain it, as employees feel valued and supported, leading to a more resilient and adaptive organization.
Also Read: Grain Brain Summary and Key Lessons
3. The Importance of Being a Discriminating Giver
The importance of being a discriminating giver is unparalled.
Grant points out that not all giving is equally effective.
The most successful givers are those who are able to discern when and how to give in a manner that amplifies their impact without draining their resources. They set boundaries to ensure that they are not taken advantage of by takers.
They are selective about the projects and people they invest in, ensuring that their efforts are both appreciated and reciprocated in some form.
They also look for ways to give that leverage their unique skills and passions, which makes the act of giving more sustainable and impactful.
For an individual, the lesson is to cultivate an “otherish” approach—balancing concern for others with self-interest.
It involves mastering the art of saying no when necessary, recognizing when one’s generosity is being abused, and prioritizing help that aligns with one’s own values and goals.
By doing so, one can enjoy the benefits of being a giver—such as satisfaction, expanded networks, and increased opportunities—without the pitfalls of exhaustion and exploitation.
Throughout “Give and Take,” Grant supports his thesis with a wealth of empirical evidence, personal anecdotes, and case studies from various industries, which makes the book not only informative but also highly persuasive and engaging.
By the end, it’s clear that Grant has charted a new path in understanding what drives success, challenging the conventional wisdom that self-interest is the primary route to achievement.
Instead, he invites us to reconsider the power of contributing to the success of others as a cornerstone of our own.
Read our other summaries
- One Up On Wall Street Summary and Key Lessons
- To Sell is Human Summary and Key Lessons
- First They Killed My Father Summary and Key Lessons
- How Democracies Die Summary and Key Lessons
- The Almanack of Naval Ravikant Summary and Key Lessons