Book Summary: Give and Take, Why Helping Others Drives Our Success – Adam Grant


In today’s dramatically reconfigured world, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. In this book, Adam Grant, an award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others sink to the bottom.

1. Giving, taking, and matching are three fundamental styles of social interaction

2. Givers = Prefer to give more than they get, other-focused, paying more attention to what other people need from them. Givers tend to help whenever the benefits to others exceed personal costs.

3. Takers = Tends to be self-focused, evaluating what other people can offer them. Takers tend to help others strategically when the benefits to them outweigh the personal costs.

4. Matchers = Tends to operate on the principle of fairness; when they help others, they protect themselves by seeking reciprocity. Matchers tend to believe in tit for tat and relationships are governed by even exchanges of favours.

5. The difference between givers and takers aren’t about money or compensation demanded from their employers but rather, in their attitudes and actions towards others.

6. One might shift from one original style to another, depending on the situation.

7. “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness.” AKA: To be concerned with the needs of others than with one’s own (selflessness) or to only be concerned about one’s individual needs (selfishness).

8. Three significant advantages of networks: Private information, diverse skills and power.

9. On networking: “If you set out to help others, you will rapidly reinforce your reputation and expand your universe of possibilities.”

10. “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

11. We won’t succeed if we create networks with the sole intention of getting something.

12. Networks consist of investments in meaningful activities and relationships.

13. Takers tend to be self-absorbed and more likely to use first-person singular pronouns like I, me, mine, my and myself versus first-person plural pronouns like we, us, our, ours and ourselves.

14. When you meet people, you should be asking yourself: “How can I help the other person?” We can’t always predict who can help us.

15. Strong and Weak Ties. Strong ties = Close friends and colleagues, people we trust. Weak Ties = Acquaintances and people we know casually. People tend to more likely benefit from weak ties as weak ties are more likely to open access to a different network compared to strong Ties which tend to travel in the same social circles.

16. Dormant ties or people whom you used to see often or know well tend to provide different information and fresher ideas than current contacts. When people reconnect a dormant relationship, they still have feelings of trust.

17. Expedition behaviour = Involves putting the group’s goals and mission first, showing the same amount of concern for others as you do for yourself.

18. Responsibility bias = Exaggerating our contributions relative to other’s inputs. Even when people are well-intentioned, they tend to overvalue their contributions and undervalue those of others.

19. Information discrepancy = We often have more access to information about our contributions than the contributions of others. We see all our efforts but tend only to witness a subset of the other party’s efforts.

20. Perspective gap = When we’re not experiencing a psychologically or physically intense state, we dramatically underestimate how much it will affect us.

21. Escalation of commitment = Research shows that once people invest in time, energy or resources when it turns bad, they’re at risk for increasing their investment. (Think gambling or a bad investment) This tends to allow the decision maker to keep the prospect of failure hidden.

22. Two fundamental paths to influence Dominance and Prestige. Dominance = Gain influence because others see us as strong, powerful and authoritative. Prestige = Become influential because others genuinely respect and admire us.

23. Advice seeking is a surprisingly effective strategy for exercising influence when one lack’s authority.

24. Benefits of advice seeking: learning, perspective taking, commitment and flattery.

25. Success involves more than just capitalising on the strengths of giving; it also requires avoiding the pitfalls. E.g., If people give too much time, they end up making sacrifices for their collaborators and network ties, at the expense of their energy.

26. When people provide continually without concern for their well-being, they’re at risk for poor mental and physical health.

27. Giving and taking are based on our motives and values; they are choices that we make regardless of whether our personalities trend agreeable or disagreeable.

Grab the book: Give and Take : Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

Although this is a quick list of key takeaways I obtained from the book, I might have missed out certain parts which you mind find interesting. Should you have the urge to dive deeper into topics such as the Investment theory of intelligence and case studies. What motivates people to invest their time in developing skills, mastering a discipline, and the power of grit. The book goes into more detailed explanations on topics such as how takers, givers and matcher differ when influencing, communicating, and expressing their vulnerability etc.

Feel free to take down relevant notes or share this with your friends, families and loved ones. Continuous learning is not a destination but rather a never-ending journey.


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