Give and Take

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, had a very interesting piece in the NY Times this past weekend that might provide some food for thought.  The article deals with a number of interesting topics, but the overall theme of working together and complementing each other really jumps out.  The role women play in the generosity of men is somewhat stunning but quite true.  It should be something men should ponder but perhaps more importantly, they should also seek counsel from women who could help round out this rough edge.

The most provocative question in the article comes from one of the studies they performed which helped support their conclusions.  Would you rather make $25 and your partner $10 or $20 and your partner $30?  Obviously this is a question to measure selfishness.  With this and other questions, it is very interesting that those with more siblings, with daughters and with more influence from women turn out to be more sharing and less selfish.  The tidbits on Bill Gates are very interesting.

At the end of the article, the author talks about how mixing and matching children in school really makes a big difference in how they perform, their attitudes and tolerance for others.  The concept of everyone being a different piece of the puzzle and if the puzzle is going to be completed everyone needs to come together is a powerful metaphor.  This is the basis for developing high performing teams and companies.  This is a concept about inclusiveness and about selflessness.

There are many lessons to be learned in this brief article.  First, it is important to fully understand the skills and talents everyone has and how they can contribute to the success of a project.  Perhaps more interesting is how the traits of others can change everyone in the group as evidenced by how women in the group can help further evolve the men.  I would suggest that similar results would play out when putting together teams of diverse backgrounds as well.

It would seem that both companies and individuals should be challenged by these studies.  Companies should make diversity a priority and make sure women are put in leadership positions in order to drive profits.  That’s right, it seems as though it is more than just a good thing to do but the right thing for the shareholders.  Individuals should constantly be looking for ways they can associate with people who are different from them in a variety of ways.  They should search mentors who can complement their own skills and perhaps challenge them to grow beyond their blind areas.  Individuals should constantly be searching for other points of view and other ways to do things as these are the seeds of growth.

This is a challenge that is easier said than done.  People tend to cluster with those who think, look and act like themselves.  It is easier that way and more comfortable because when everyone is the same they tend to think alike and not challenge each other’s thinking.  The problem is, as shown in this article, the thinking often needs to be challenged.  Always think diversity when you are thinking development.

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