Adam Grant: Who Gives, Wins

Thursday, 13. April 2017

Who Gives, Wins:
A Tribute to Adam Grant

It’s not a big secret: one must embrace new ideas and give a chance to extraordinary approaches in order not to lag behind in business. That’s why from now on we have decided to regularly present an inspiring personality which thoughts and theories we want to share with the SOLYP blog community. For 2017, we have chosen organisation psychologist Adam Grant who regularly attracts attention by coming up with surprising findings in the working life and who’s philosophy perfectly suits SOLYP’s new path.

In the first part of our blog series we get involved with Grants most elementary theories. In his book “Give and Take. Why Helping Others Drives Our Success” he addresses the power of giving. Before its publishing in 2013, Grant had been collecting and analysing the indications of a change in the working world for more than seven years. The result turned the current perspectives of success and career of most managers upside down. According to Grant, altruists are more successful at work. Or to put it into other words: who thinks of others gets further. Here is the corresponding TED talk:


In his book, Grant divides people in three groups: Takers, matchers and givers and describes how, apparently, these different patterns have an impact on a professional career. At the bottom of the career ladder are predominantly givers who worry too much about being taken advantage of. In the middle field are mainly takers and matchers. Again, at the top are predominantly givers who, because of their altruistic manner, apparently, have more chances to succeed.

The reason being, that givers always try to help others even if there isn’t an immediate benefit for themselves. With time, they manage to build a big network of people with different interests and (professional) backgrounds who appreciate and respect them. In the long-term, the career of the giver does benefit from having these contacts. Recommendations and contacts are worth a lot when it’s about considering responsible positions in a company. The digital age seems to strengthen this advantage of the givers: social media like Facebook or LinkdedIn facilitate building and maintaining networks and can be considered as the main reason why givers are more successful nowadays, so Grant.

But why are givers predominantly positioned at the bottom of the ladder, too? Grant admits that people who constantly want to satisfy everyone’s needs are burnt out in no time before they can even start to benefit from their own network. The secret of the successful givers lays in an ideal combination of third-party and self-interest. In the interim, they perform less to fulfil their own tasks (Grant recommends so called five-minute-favours) for self-preservation so to speak.

Give BlogA significant success factor of the givers is, according to Grant, their big empathy which makes working with them tremendously easier. Givers emphasise with their opposites and want them to feel comfortable. The result being a pleasant and productive work relationship. Also, givers are especially valuable employees because of the way they negotiate. Takers present themselves in a confident manner and strive to put their interests first, while givers, according to Grant, communicate their own weaknesses in the open, too. Their aim is that the result satisfies everybody. Acting in this way seems to make their negotiation position weaker at first, however their reputation, being a reliable and honest business partner, gets stronger. Studies prove that while negotiating, givers don’t get worse results than matchers and takers. Grant justifies: During a negotiation, successful givers are motivated to achieve the best result possible for a higher aim and don’t even consider their own benefit. Their negotiation skills, however, are tough in order to get there. The difference is that, in addition to that, their business contacts are long-term.

Grant explains that givers are particularly suited for management positions because of their basic trust in the skills of their employees which proves itself in the sense of “self-fulfilling prophecy”. “From the start, givers (…) put their trust in the skill of others and tend to see potential in everyone”, writes Grant. This trust is the best motivation for a team and can lead to a higher performance.

What we can take from Grants theory for our daily work are three clear recommendations for action that also the SOLYP corporate culture reflects:

  • Promote givers in your company and systematically cut out takers for a productive work environment that cares for team work.
  • Establish a culture of helping where asking for help is not frowned upon nor it is to offer.
  • Be altruistic more often and help others without thinking of your own benefit – you will be rewarded in the long-term! However, your motives are vital: phoneys (Grant calls them faker takers) who really only want to be givers to achieve their own targets probably won’t be successful in the long run, according to Grant.

For more inspiring thoughts and surprising study results it’s worth following Adam Grant on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter – and to subscribe to the SOLYP strategy blog where we will present more of Grant’s exciting insights in the following months.