Glad I made it to Cal Tech where the Skeptics Society led by Michael Shermer hosted Adam Grant for a talk on his book “Give and Take.” In his presentation, Adam offered persuasive examples of how people who are indiscriminately helpful to basically anyone who asks can get ahead by accumulating a wider network over time and that what goes around comes around.
He claims that Mark Granovetter‘s theory of the strength of weak ties still holds true in that our strong ties often do not add significant news as they are exposed to the same sources and networks as we are ourselves whereas a weak tie moves in circles yet unfamiliar with us where new opportunities can emerge.
Adam Grant argues that givers can even get significant value out of dormant ties, i.e., connections we haven’t been in touch with even for a number of years. This assumes, however, that the lasting impression we left with the individual in question or the reputation we have is a good one and that we are remembered more as givers than as takers. Grant went into an in-depth example Fortune Magazine’s Best Networker, Adam Rifkin and explained for example how he as a Cal Tech graduate first helped Green Day develop a huge community online already in 1993 and the positive ripple effects this had on his professional career in Silicon Valley five years later through a dormant tie. Apparently, Adam Rifkin sincerely believes that you will get good Karma from doing good.
Adam Grant further predicts that with the emergence of social media, our reputations will be more on the line. Research has shown that the more spotlight that is shone on people, the more they will behave as givers. The question, though, is to what degree such behaviors are sustainable and he suggests that if the giving comes primarily from a sense of guilt and pressure, the person in question is likely to revert back to a taking stance once the spotlight fades away.
Takers are people who are likely to be “kissing up, kicking down” by focusing on those they deem can be helpful to fulfill their objectives while ignoring the rest. Sometimes takers also look like givers at an initial look as this is what good fakers do, they create an aura of generosity so it is wise to not rush to judgments. Clearly, some givers burn out, says Grant, by not being able to detect takers who take advantage of them.
For those that want to become more of givers, he offers some advice. First, recognize that most people overestimate their giving nature and he provides a test that we can do on his website. Second, asking how one can become more giving is a good first step! Third, he suggests that people should start sharing something they are passionate about, something they enjoy doing, and get into a habit of giving. The more we have to analyze every action, the less natural the giving will come but over time we can learn.
Finally, it was interesting to hear him discuss the correlation between the giving nature of people and their degree of extrovertedness. There is none. Some believe that extroverts are more giving as they are more likely to talk about it but introverts help too. He left us by encouraging us to nominate givers and he will recognize these people on his website in spite of the fact that he expects most of the true givers to be embarrassed about the attention! As Adam Grant is a self-confessed introvert, I can only join the growing choire and nominate him as a true giver, thanks for the inspiration and now I have to go read the book!