Musings on books, technology, entrepreneurship, nonprofits and umm.. everything else …


It was a forwarded article in the New York Times that piqued my interest in Prof. Adam Grant and his work. I was curious because he was a Wharton professor, and the topic, as laid out in the article, was something quite interesting to me.

As soon as I got done with the article – which speaks of how Adam spends hours on email helping people out and responding to questions – I decided to test that out. I sent him an email introducing myself and asking whether he would be visiting the Bay area. I was pretty sure I will not get a response – I mean this was an NYT article, the man was doing book tours with several stops across the country. But sure enough, within 24 hours I had a short but precise response on when he would be in town and that he would love to meet and chat at his book signing event in Menlo Park.

Needless to say, I was sold. The time spent at his talk, and on his book were probably the most productive so far in trying to understand workplace motivation and career growth, in the context of my world view and notion of what is right and wrong. He’s an amazing speaker and a witty writer – I recommend the book very highly.

I don’t want to steal the thunder of the various anecdotes in the book, but at a high level, it classifies people into givers, takers and matchers. The interesting statistic there was that both at the top of the corporate “success” ladder and the bottom, you would find an abundance of givers. The book then goes through several ways in which you can find your way up, if you are a giver.

An interesting meta-level question is whether if you are a real giver, you would self-identify yourself as such in public. This could also be a reason why for most practical purposes, most of us are matchers – we like to keep score of what we have done for others and what we got in return. I for one, have been amazed at how often people remember even small favors you have done for them and go out of their way to help you when you need help. Adam talks about pronoia in this context as something givers experience which is an antithesis to paranoia.

He also debunks the thinking that somehow one can detect takers from their looks and goes through some ways in which one can “convert” takers into givers, or at least know how to shake them off. 

Definitely recommend adding this to your summer reading list!

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