Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Good For That Which Is Good"

I recently started listening to Wharton professor Adam Grant's book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success on Audible. I've had it on Kindle since it came out back in 2013, but I'm only now getting around to reading/listening (to) it (though I've kept up with Grant's work elsewhere). While I'm only in the second chapter, I was struck by the implications of the research presented by Grant. In short, Grant names three kinds of people in the workplace:
  1. Takers - people who seek to extract as much value as possible from interactions.
  2. Matchers - a median of give-and-take; quid pro quo.
  3. Givers - people who seek to contribute and add value to interactions.
Studies consistently find that givers end up at the bottom of the success ladder. For example, givers among professional engineers "had the worst objective scores in their firm for the number of tasks, technical reports, and drawings completed--not to mention errors made, deadlines missed, and money wasted. Going out of their way to help others prevented them from getting their own work done" (pg. 6). Similar results were found among medical students in Belgium and salespeople in North Carolina. Compared with takers, "on average, givers earn 14 percent less money, have twice the risk of becoming victims of crimes, and are judged as 22 percent less powerful and dominant" (pg. 7). Yet, when the researchers looked at the top of the ladder, they found givers dominating there as well. Among these same engineers, givers had the highest productivity and best objective scores for quantity and quality of results. The givers among the Belgian medical students had the highest grades, while those among the North Carolinian salespeople were the most productive.

How is this the case? Giving is obviously open to exploitation in any given instance, but overtime the practice becomes advantageous due to reputation and collaboration: "Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch...Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them." A giver "creates value, instead of just claiming it" (pg. 10). It also creates a healthier network and/or organization because "[t]eams depend on givers to share information, volunteer for unpopular tasks, and provide help" (pg. 16).

The above reminded me of my last blog post regarding semiotic objections to business and markets. Just as distaste for monetary exchange is socially constructed, so too is the Western intellectual distaste for business. The research of Grant and others demonstrate that business is not inherently greedy or exploitative, but can be an entity of generosity, gratitude, and grace.

...but the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again evil for evil, or carnal for carnal, or devilish for devilish—good for that which is good; righteous for that which is righteous; just for that which is just; merciful for that which is merciful - Alma 41:13

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