Summary - Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success - 
Adam Grant

Summary - Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success - Adam Grant


• Adam Grant's book Give and Take makes a case that givers—those who provide more value to others than they receive—tend to achieve tremendous success and productivity over time. Examples show how givers build goodwill, strong networks, and reputations that benefit their careers.

• Givers can protect themselves by being strategic in their giving. They thrive in professions based on relationships and teamwork. Research shows givers at the top and bottom of fields, suggesting they struggle initially but achieve considerably long-term.

• David Hornik's experience shows how giving can be risky but lead to opportunity. Givers achieve through networking, collaborating, influencing, and evaluating others differently. They build more extensive networks by helping others genuinely and sustainably.

• Strict reciprocity limits networks. Givers have more extensive networks as they help broadly without direct returns. "Pay it forward" reciprocity spreads through networks, showing how givers benefit from contributing value to others.

• Adam Rifkin's experience shows how givers gain network benefits from dormant ties and unprompted goodwill. Giving also spreads through networks, creating opportunities for givers. Success comes from interdependence, not independence.

• George Meyer's story shows how givers achieve through collaboration and helping others succeed. Though his work brought joy to many, he lacks public acclaim, revealing the complex credit dynamics givers face. Creativity relies on interdependence, though visionaries are seen as independent.

• Professor C.J. Skender shows how recognizing and cultivating the potential of others leads to outsized success. Though challenging, this ability is valuable. Most struggle to assess potential objectively, prone to biases, but Skender seems able to see beyond the surface. By supporting students, he creates a "ripple effect" of achievement.

• In summary, Give and Take highlights how giving to others strategically and genuinely drives individual and group success. The interchange that benefits the collective, not just direct returns, spreads and leads to the best outcomes over time. Generosity and interdependence, not self-interest, enable progress. Achievement comes from what we can give to others.

- Givers are susceptible to being exploited by takers due to excessive trust, empathy, and timidity. Successful givers cultivate “sincerity screening” to distinguish takers from genuine givers. They look beyond appearances to assess motivations and values.

- Flexibility, assertiveness and avoiding traps like being too trusting, empathetic or timid help givers become “otherish” — able to give sustainably. Selfless givers risk becoming doormats but can develop otherish giving.

- Otherish givers like Jason Geller mentor strategically, benefitting others and themselves. Selfless givers like Lillian Bauer stall success by the inability to say no or push back. Otherish giving accelerates success; selfless giving may stall it.

- Avoid repeat interactions with takers when possible. Use a “generous tit for tat” strategy — start cooperative but mirror selfish behavior to establish boundaries.

- See takers objectively. Recognize the reasons for their behavior but do not empathize. Stop feeling responsible for them.

- Peter Audet’s story shows how givers get trapped by empathy and responsibility for takers. He had to stop empathizing to make changes.

- Impact visibility and helping new beneficiaries recharges givers. Chunking acts together or sharing stories of impact improves motivation, especially for givers.

- Studies show “advice-seeking” leadership, expressing vulnerability, and powerless communication gain influence. Tentative speech is more effective long-term. Match speech styles to team member proactivity.

- Caring for self and others leads to success and well-being. “Selfless” givers may sacrifice themselves; “otherish” givers pursue self-interest and other-interest. Canadians and successful people show this balance.

- Seeking input signals collaboration, elicits new ideas, builds goodwill, and motivates help. Annie’s advice seeking resolved her situation. High-impact leaders do this.

The key takeaways are:

  • Pursue otherish giving, sincerity screening, tit for tat with takers.

  • Stop over-empathizing.

  • Make impact visible.

  • Seek input.

  • Match communication styles.

  • Care for self and others.

- High expectations and opportunities can help people fulfill their potential beyond what their current skills and talents suggest is possible. Several factors enable blooming, including motivation, grit, vulnerability, and supporting others.

- Prosocial motivation—a desire to help others—boosts sales performance and resilience but must be balanced to avoid reducing profits. An optimal level of prosocial motivation still allows for business effectiveness.

- Giving and kindness provide many benefits but must be balanced with self-care to be sustainable. Giving that stems from purpose and consideration of limits is most impactful.

- Nice people may struggle in competitive situations due to a desire to please others, but niceness also provides benefits. Strategies like focusing on shared interests, empathy, self-advocacy, and reframing conditions can help friendly people become wiser negotiators. True altruism is rare; most generosity stems at least partly from self-interest.

- Creating a shared identity and facilitating connections between people boosts generosity. Making giving visible establishes it as a social norm, evoking reciprocal altruism. Though people assume self-interest drives others’ actions, giving transcends self-interest when identifying with a group or cause.

- Success comes from balancing concern for your and others’ interests ( “otherishness”). Look for win-win solutions that allow all parties to gain more value. Express genuine care for the collective good. If seen as self-serving, they lose trust and support. Matchers can find forms of giving that motivate them.

- Become a better giver through small changes: helping others, listening, and assisting new people monthly. Share stories of generosity. Make giving a habit to strengthen identity as a giver. Rise to the top by achieving goals in a way that helps others succeed and builds networks of givers. But avoid being seen as self-serving.

The summary outlines how the seemingly opposing motivations of self-interest and generosity can be balanced for optimal leadership, relationships, and outcomes. It touches on how creating shared purpose, facilitating reciprocal goodwill, establishing giving as the norm, and reframing competitive situations into win-wins help resolve conflicts between friendly and wise, altruism and ambition. Overall, “otherishness” and strategic generosity emerge as the keys to success and progress.

- People are motivated to help others for various reasons beyond self-interest, such as reciprocity, moral duty, and admiration of generosity. However, people often underestimate how much prosocial behavior occurs. Announcing good intentions can reduce motivation to follow through.

- Giver CEOs lead companies with more volatility and a more significant upside. Successful givers generously share credit and knowledge. Having sisters correlates with giver traits.

- Psychological safety improves performance by enabling learning from mistakes. Gift-giving requires understanding others’ perspectives. Coaches and leaders can build trust by encouraging players and employees to secure their futures. Liking competent people more after a mistake depends on the audience’s self-esteem.

- Giver salespeople and volunteers eventually outperform others by focusing on customers and beneficiaries. Asking for commitments and sharing stories of impact motivate giving. But selfless givers need self-care. Moderation in giving and volunteering benefits well-being.

- People donate a smaller portion of their income as they get wealthier. They feel wealthier leads to pledging less. Agreeableness and giver tendencies are partially inherited.

- Biology and psychology research links agreeableness and compassion to understanding others. While related, compassion motivates helping close others, friendliness, and strangers. Givers choose lower-paying, social mission careers.

- People help similar others. Reminding fans of shared identity increased, assisting rival fans too. The “name-letter effect”—favoring similar names—is weak. Informing givers of using less energy unintentionally increased it; approval symbols motivated continued conservation.

- Any reciprocity style can develop a giving identity, but givers adopt it more profoundly and consistently across situations. For takers, a giving identity in one setting may not transfer until another form.


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