Review: Give and Take

Give and Take is a book authored by Wharton School professor Adam Grant. First published in 2013, the book articulates a novel theory on the optimal approach to managing professional relationships.

The central thesis of the book is that that the workforce can be split into three categories: givers, takers and matchers. Givers selflessly place the needs of others above themselves, while takers put their own success above all else. Matchers adopt a reciprocal approach, helping others only in direct response to help that they have themselves received.

Contrary to common perception, however, the book argues that it is a subset of the givers that are best placed to achieve personal success: those that do well by doing good, by pursuing balanced outcomes that benefit themselves as well as others. The book provides numerous examples of people that have reached the top of their profession through adopting this approach, and pulls out some general reasons behind its effectiveness.

For instance, personal networks are often central to accessing important information or new opportunities, and it is often those at the periphery of a network (whose knowledge, contacts and viewpoint differs most significantly from our own) that are the most valuable source of these. Strategic givers are inherently better placed to take advantage of such extended networks.

Moreover, negotiation and bargaining are important elements in any business career. However, through ruthless pursuit of self-interest, such discussions often end in resentment or an impasse, while placing too much emphasis on the needs of the other party often leads to poor results for the side of the negotiator. Pursuit of a win-win outcome through consideration of the requirements of all parties is therefore the best approach.