ALANA WEISS: Good morning.
My name is Alana Weiss, and today it is my pleasure to
welcome Adam Grant to the Leading at Google series.
Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor and single
highest rated teacher at the Wharton School.
He is a former record setting advertising director, junior
Olympic springboard diver, and professional magician.
He has been honored as one of "Business Week's" favorite
professors and one of the world's top 40 business
professors under 40.
Adam is a regular contributor to Google's People &
Innovation lab, and he also has consulted with clients
ranging from the NFL to Goldman Sachs
to the United Nations.
He holds a Ph.D in organizational psychology from
the University of Michigan and a BA from Harvard University.
Today, Adam will share from his new book "Give and Take."
Please join me in welcoming Adam Grant.
ADAM GRANT: Good morning.
Thank you guys so much for having me.
I'm truly delighted to be here.
It's always an honor and a treat to speak to Googlers,
and also to see lots of friendly
faces in the audience.
And I'm going to try to turn all of those friendly faces in
a more negative direction in the next few minutes.
The place I want to start is I want to talk for maybe 35 or
40 minutes or so.
We'll have lots of interactive discussion throughout, and
then hopefully open it up then for some questions and more
But the place to begin, really, is to say that I'm
interested in success and what makes some people and
organizations incredibly productive and effective and
why other people, perhaps, are less so.
And at the end of the day, what I want to know is how can
every person in this room own a face that looks like this?
ADAM GRANT: And I know some of you are thinking right now,
well, I already own that face.
And the question is, well, how could you own it more often?
Or how could you spread it to the other people around you?
And as an organizational psychologist, when I started
doing research in this area about 10 years ago, I found
that there were three ways to get to this face--
hard work, talent, and luck.
If you want to be effective in any domain or any profession
or any field, you have to develop a strong work ethic,
you have to really be mastery or expertise oriented so that
you develop true skills, and, as Malcolm Gladwell told us in
"Outliers," you have to find yourself in the right place at
the right time.
And I think that's all true.
But for me, it was missing a really important part of
success in this connected world that we all live in--
our interactions with others.
Most of you work in teams.
Many of you have clients.
Some of you have more managers than you would like, perhaps.
And the question is, how does the way that you interact with
those people every day, shape the results that you achieve,
the promotions that you gain?
And ultimately, perhaps also the meaning in the happiness
that you obtain.
So when I was trying to get to the bottom of this, I came
across a really inspiring quote.
It was from Robert Benchley.
And Benchley said there are only two kinds of people in
those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and
those who don't.
And I thought that was a really profound way of
criticizing those of us in the psychology world who like to
oversimplify all of the richness and complexity of
And I told myself that if I ever wrote a book I would
never dumb down all of the complexity of people into just
Which is why today I am proud to announce to you that if you
want to capture everything important about interpersonal
interaction in organizations you need not two, but three
No, actually, in all seriousness, there's a good
amount of evidence across industries and across cultures
that there are three fundamental motives that
people bring to their interactions.
I call them reciprocity styles, basically trying to
capture the way that you approach your interactions
with other people into exchanging value.
On one end of the reciprocity spectrum we have the takers.
The people that we all love to hate who try to get as much as
possible from others and try to shirk having to contribute
back and often specialize in things like relentless self
promotion, hogging credit, and maybe stepping on a few people
on their way to the top.
Now, on the other end of the spectrum we have these very,
very strange characters that I call givers.
And for some odd reason, they actually enjoy helping others.
Not necessarily philanthropists or volunteers,
but rather the kinds of people who do a lot of knowledge
sharing, who are always introducing people and making
connections, who may step up to provide mentoring.
Now, very few of us fall purely in the
taker or giver category.
Most people, it turns out, if you look at the data, are what
I call matchers.
And a matcher is somebody who has tried to keep an even
balance of give and take.
Quid pro quo.
Tit for tat.
If I do you a favor, I expect you to do me one in return.
And that seems like a safe and reasonable way to live your
But my question is, is it the best way to live your
Is being a matcher, which most people choose to do, actually
the best path to success?
I'm going to try to shed some light on that today.
But before we do that, let's dive into the takers a little
bit and say, how would you recognize a taker even if you
didn't know that person?
So I prepared a little test, first of all, for you to
figure out if you yourself are a taker.
If you could take a moment and take the test, I'll tell you
whether you passed.
ADAM GRANT: Now, I hope this is the only thing I will say
today that is not based on data or evidence.
But I sincerely believe that the longer it takes you to
laugh, the worse your score is on the taker spectrum.
ADAM GRANT: Obviously, there are a couple different paths
to becoming a taker.
One is to be a narcissistic, to be insecure, to believe
that you have to be superior to others to be successful and
carry around this assumption that the world is zero sum.
A second path to becoming a taker, which I want to talk a
little bit about today, is having been taken advantage of
one too many times as a matcher or a giver, and
believing if I don't put myself first in this
dog-eat-dog competitive world, nobody will.
There's a third path to becoming a taker which I'm not
going to talk about today, it's called being a
ADAM GRANT: So all right.
How do you spot a taker?
How do you recognize one?
There's an actual study by Chatterjee and Hambrick
showing that you can tell whether a CEO is a taker just
by looking at that person's photograph in a company's
Here are photos of two CEOs.
I would argue that one is a taker, one's a giver.
These guys both built very successful companies.
Both, interestingly, in the 1970s worked in the Nixon
administration, which I believe is where one learned
some of his taking habits.
ADAM GRANT: And the question is--
these photos were taken right from their annual reports--
can you tell which of the two of them is the taker just by
looking at their faces or their clothing?
Take a second to study them, and then I'm going to ask you
to weigh in with your votes, and then justify your bets.
[WHISTLING "JEOPARDY!" THEME]
So as of 2013, most Wharton undergrads don't recognize
ADAM GRANT: Which I find to be a great tragedy.
Like, is that "The Twilight Zone?" No.
All right, how many people think the guy on your
right is the taker?
How many of you don't know which one is
the guy on your right?
Show your hands again, the guy on your right.
Show your hands high, we want to know who you are.
Why do you think he's the taker?
AUDIENCE: Well, his eyes look less kind.
ADAM GRANT: His eyes.
ADAM GRANT: So you can see kindness in the eyes.
I'm going with what I have.
ADAM GRANT: Who are you, and where can I learn that skill?
ADAM GRANT: So I'm told that that may be a built-in feature
to the Google Glasses.
But what about the eyes signals kindness to you?
AUDIENCE: I don't--
I'm also completely basing this off like my exp--
ADAM GRANT: Rightfully so.
What else could you use?
I've given you no information.
AUDIENCE: So I feel like the one on the left, they're a
little more closed.
Not squinting, but just more narrow.
ADAM GRANT: All right.
So you feel like the guy on the right, the taker, is sort
of looking you right in the eye?
AUDIENCE: Yeah, it's like he's posing for a commercial.
ADAM GRANT: He's posing for a commercial.
Or a press photo shoot.
So there's an actual study by Keith Campbell and his
colleagues looking at spotting takers on Facebook.
They look at the narcissistic variety of takers, and they
show that takers actually post vainer profile pictures of
They're not necessarily more attractive human beings in
general, but you will find a greater distance between how
they look every day and how hot they are in their profile
photo, because they have to put that best
foot forward, right?
So that's one interesting cue.
What else do you see about the man on the right that signals
that man is a taker?
Now no one wants to answer.
But yes, right here.
AUDIENCE: I think his smile looks a little forced.
ADAM GRANT: The smile looks forced.
AUDIENCE: It's like tense.
ADAM GRANT: It's tense.
So you think that he's hiding something behind it.
ADAM GRANT: Maybe All right, that's reasonable.
Some people also look to this smile and say he's baring his
teeth, and in the animal kingdom
that's a sign of dominance.
ADAM GRANT: And clearly CEOs live in the
animal kingdom, so.
ADAM GRANT: Any other cues?
John Carmel, what about the eyes?
AUDIENCE: I don't know.
ADAM GRANT: I know you've been well trained
to look at the eyes.
AUDIENCE: I don't remember.
ADAM GRANT: Ugh.
Anybody use the eyes other than just general kindness?
A more specific cue?
AUDIENCE: The guy on the left looks like he's making direct
eye contact, the one on the right looks like he's looking
a little bit above you.
ADAM GRANT: Yeah.
That's a possibility.
ADAM GRANT: A-ha!
Bring it on.
AUDIENCE: It's when you're doing a fake smile your eyes
lie because I think they crinkle right here.
ADAM GRANT: They don't crinkle.
AUDIENCE: Or don't crinkle.
ADAM GRANT: Yes.
So some of you know the French neurologist Duchenne in the
1800s discovered the Duchenne smile, the authentic smile.
You can't control these muscles right next to your
eyes, and so when you're experiencing genuine positive
emotions you will see those crinkle or wrinkle next to
But if it's a fake smile, you won't see those.
The problem is both takers and givers and matchers, too, are
capable of fake smiles.
In fact, there are a lot of takers, also, who engage in
very genuine smiles.
There's a term in psychology called duping delight, which
captures the sheer joy you experience if you're a taker
after lying to somebody and getting away with it.
ADAM GRANT: So you can see this very genuine smile from a
taker who's like, I just took you to the cleaners.
ADAM GRANT: All right.
So those are a couple cues.
I am sorry to report that the man on the right I would say
is the giver.
So some of you will be feeling bad about
yourselves right now.
I will make the rest of you feel bad about
yourselves in a moment.
The guy on the right, some of you may have heard of him, his
name is Jon Huntsman, Sr. He built the building that I
teach in at Wharton.
He's one of 19 people on Earth who have given away over $1
Seemingly pretty generous.
He also had a son recently who may have been a
If you've read his book "Winners Never Cheat," he has
some incredible stories of going out of his way to give
to others, including after the financial markets crashed, he
couldn't fulfill all of his charitable commitments so he
took out a personal loan to deliver on his promises to
help various causes.
There's also a couple stories, actually, of him being in big
merger and acquisition negotiations and ending up
feeling like the CEO at the other side of the table is in
a really bad situation, had just lost
his wife due to cancer--
cancer, unfortunately, has affected a lot of
the Huntsman family--
and Huntsman basically signed a deal instead of claiming an
extra $200 million because he empathized with the other guy.
So I think he's a pretty powerful example of a giver.
The man on the left I would say was the taker.
Did anybody recognize him?
AUDIENCE: Ken Lay.
ADAM GRANT: OK, those of you who
recognized him, that's cheating.
You can't use actual information about him.
ADAM GRANT: You're supposed to use the photo and the clothes.
But yeah, Ken Lay.
What do you know about Ken Lay?
ADAM GRANT: Enron.
Yeah, one of the primary villains in that scandal.
If you've seen or read "The Smartest Guys in the Room,"
you've been exposed to many, many examples of him having
been a taker.
Now, the question is, how did you know, if you didn't
recognize him, that he was a taker?
And I'm sad to report that there is nothing in either of
these two photos that says anything
about givers and takers.
ADAM GRANT: I just like to see what people are willing to
read into meaningless photographs.
ADAM GRANT: No, in all seriousness, I show you these
photos for two reasons.
One, to remind you that when we judge is somebody a giver
or a taker, are they generous and helpful, or are they
selfish, we tend to rely a lot on intuition, on snap
judgments, on the thin slices that Malcolm Gladwell wrote
about in "Blink." The problem is these are often wildly
inaccurate, because somebody's outer veneer--
are they friendly?
Are they warm?
Are they welcoming?
Are they polite?--
is totally different from their inner motives.
And Ken Lay is a great example of this, right?
He wasn't just a taker, he was a faker, ie, a taker disguised
as a giver.
He donated 1% of Enron's annual profits to charity.
He went out of his way to do what translates from Dutch to
kissing up, kicking down.
Takers are really good fakers when dealing with superiors.
They want to put their best feet forward, they want to
make a good impression on powerful people.
But it's hard to maintain that masquerade at every
And so even if his bosses were fooled, oftentimes his peers
and his subordinates saw right through him.
But I believe we didn't have to go to his peers and
subordinates to find out that he was a taker.
I think we could have looked at the 1997 Enron annual
report, four years before the company collapsed, and spot a
cue that Ken Lay was a taker.
Let me show you these photos in context.
Here's Huntsman's photo from his
company's 2006 annual report.
What do you think Ken Lay's photo looked like?
Some people are saying it's a little bigger.
That would be a dramatic understatement.
Because if you look at the Enron 1997 annual report, you
will notice that his head is an entire page.
AUDIENCE: [LAUGHTER AND GROANING]
ADAM GRANT: Now, lest you think this is just sort of a
fun, unusual example, an outlier, when Chatterjee and
Hambrick did their research, they got data on over 100
They got Wall Street analysts who knew the CEOs of each of
those companies to rate how much of a taker is each of
And then they looked for cues that correlated with the Wall
Street analyst's ratings.
And they found three cues that actually correlated at 0.86, a
whopping correlation in the social sciences, with the
ratings given by the analysts.
And one of them was the prominence of the CEO's photo
in the annual report.
The taker CEOs actually had larger photos.
They were more likely to be pictured alone, as well.
Which sent a clear message, right?
I am the most important person in this company.
It is all about me.
The average computer industry CEO made about two to two and
a half times the annual salary of the next highest paid
executive in that company.
The average taker CEO had a multiple of what greater than
the next highest paid executive in the company?
ADAM GRANT: 40.
I mean, I'm not even sure if that's financially possible.
ADAM GRANT: It was a multiple of seven.
So taker CEOs got paid about seven times more than anybody
else in their company.
Third cue was in their speech.
Not just larger photos, not just bigger relative pay.
What two words do taker CEOs use more than the others?
AUDIENCE: "I" and "me?"
ADAM GRANT: "I" and "me," bingo.
When talking about the company, as opposed to "us"
and we." So those are a couple ways that you
could recognize a taker.
What I want to do, though, is I want to ask, OK, what
happens to takers?
Do they rise?
Do they fall?
How does their success compare to givers and matchers?
And when I started trying to ask this question, I began at
the bottom of success, asking which group is worst off.
Who gets the worst results?
Is it the takers, the givers, or the matchers?
And it looked at research in three domains.
Got to have engineers.
Stanford's Frank Flynn did this great study where he got
engineers to rate each other on how many favors they did
versus how many they got, and then tracked their
productivity and the number of errors they made.
And then medical students.
Filip Lievens and his colleagues got every medical
student in Belgium over a seven year period to fill out
surveys about how much they liked helping others and then
tracked their grades.
And then Dane Barnes and I actually studied salespeople.
And we were interested in revenue.
So who were the highest producing salespeople who
bring in the most revenue every year?
Across these three groups, the same results came out.
The engineers, the medical students, and the salespeople.
There was one group, either the takers, the givers, or the
matchers, who was consistently worse off when it came to
productivity, errors, grades, and revenue.
Get a show of hands to see where your intuitions and
How many people think it was the takers at
the bottom most often?
All right, we have some optimists in the room.
How many people think it was the matchers?
OK, a lot of you.
Now, this is an odd thing to vote for, because
statistically if most people are matchers, it would
actually be quite hard for most people to be at the
bottom of any metric.
What about the givers?
How many people think the givers are at the bottom?
All right, those of you with your hands up,
you would be correct.
If you looked at the engineers, the engineers with
the worst productivity and the most mistakes were those who
did a lot more favors than they got back.
They were so busy helping their colleagues, they
couldn't get their work done efficiently or effectively.
The students with the worst grades in year one of medical
school were the ones who agreed most strongly with
statements like, I love helping others.
Now, if you carry that to its logical extreme--
ADAM GRANT: The doctor that you trust is somebody who
never wanted to help anyone.
Dane and I found that the salespeople with the lowest
revenue were the ones also who were passionately motivated to
help their colleagues and help their customers.
And I had one salespeople put it to me pretty bluntly.
He said, look, I really want to help my customers, which
means I will never sell them a product.
So I found this to be interesting.
I also found it, for those of you who are givers, to be a
little bit sad.
How many of you would self-identify more as a giver
than a matcher or a taker?
OK, how many of you self-identify as a giver but
didn't want to raise your hand because you feel like that
ADAM GRANT: All right, those are the real
givers in the room.
So I did think this was sad, though, for those people who
And so then I wanted to know who's at the top.
If the givers are at the bottom, then who's the most
likely to have the highest productivity, the fewest
mistakes, the best grades, and, ultimately, the most
revenue and sales?
Get a show of hands on this one as well.
How many people think the takers were most
likely at the top?
How many people think the matchers are most likely at
the top, ignoring my warning that the most common can't be
overrepresented in one part of the spectrum?
How many people didn't raise their hand for either the
takers or the matchers just now?
OK, good, now we have everyone involved.
Maybe you didn't raise your hand because you already
anticipated the thing that took me 10 years to figure
out, which is it's the givers again.
The givers are not only overrepresented at the bottom,
they're also more common at the top.
The engineers not only with the worst results but also the
best results are the ones who do a lot more favors
than they get back.
The takers and the matchers are more likely to be in the
middle when it comes to their productivity
and their error rates.
Medical students with the best grades, not just in year one
but over a seven year period are also the ones who say, I
love helping others.
And by the way, the medical students seem to get better
over time when they're givers, because you move from
basically having to study information independently to
collaborating with fellow physicians and also having to
work closely with patients.
And givers tend to really shine in interdependent work,
whereas they may struggle a little bit more
in independent work.
In sales, Dane and I found that giver salespeople who
really loved helping colleagues and customers
actually brought in about 50% more annual revenue than the
takers and the matchers.
So for me, that posed two questions.
One was, what do successful givers do that the rest of us
takers and matchers might want to learn?
And I think this is an exciting question because
these reciprocity styles are not hard wired.
They're not fixed.
In fact, they're choices we make in every single
As a thought experiment, think about the next
person that you meet.
And you could say, I'm going to ask myself, do I want to
just try to help this person with no strings attached?
Do I want to try to get something from this person?
Or do I want to make an even trade?
And the more that you make those choices, the more
obviously you define yourself by one style or another.
But because it's a choice, it's
something we can all change.
And maybe there are ways that successful givers operate that
would be interesting and productive
for takers and matchers.
Second question that I was curious about is, what happens
to those givers at the bottom?
And if you would like to be a helpful person or a generous
person, what are the traps that you might fall into and
how do you avoid them?
Took me a couple hundred pages to try to
answer those questions.
I'm not going to put you all through that this morning.
But what I want to do is just give you a couple highlights
of some of the things that I learned that are described in
more detail in the book.
Overall, the thing that I was really interested in is how do
givers who succeed relate to the people in their
organizations or outside of them?
And so I end up looking at how do givers build networks?
How do they collaborate?
How do they develop talent in other people?
How do they communicate and influence and negotiate?
And I'll just give you a couple of stories and data
points from a few of those perspectives, and then we can
open it up for questions.
How do givers succeed in collaboration?
Anybody recognize this man?
He's known as the genius behind the most successful
television show in history.
ADAM GRANT: No, but it's a good guess.
Probably you've never heard of him.
I hadn't heard of him either when I came across his story.
Although I later found out that he invented a word that
was uttered by my college roommate every day for four
years, which made me a little bit unhappy.
But this man is known as the genius behind a really amazing
And he had a pretty checkered past.
He was an undergraduate, and he ended up deciding that he
was going to sell a refrigerator.
And he sold it to a freshman, and he took the money, and he
never delivered the refrigerator.
And he almost got kicked out of college for that, and then
he almost got kicked out again when he smashed his dorm room
window with an electric guitar.
And his one sort of crowning moment in
life was when he was--
to that point, at least-- elected the president of "The
Harvard Lampoon." But then he was--
actually there was an attempted overthrow, a coup,
by his peers because he was quote "not responsible
And he ended up finishing college.
He decided that he was going to make a living by betting on
dog racing, greyhound tracks.
And he spent two weeks holed in a library trying to develop
a mathematic, scientific way of beating the system.
Unfortunately, he ran out of money a few days later and had
to move in with his parents.
So bad start to his career.
But somehow he managed to get a job writing for a little
show called "Saturday Night Live" in the 1980s.
And one point in his "Saturday Night Live" career-- his name
is George Meyer, by the way.
George had a decision to make.
He had two different guests that were
coming onto the show.
One of them, the Material Girl in the height of her
fame, in her prime.
The other we will say perhaps a less desirable candidate to
write a sketch for, Jimmy Breslin.
And George was trying to figure out, OK, we need
sketches for both of these people.
They're going to be coming on the show.
And everybody's flocking to write for Madonna.
Nobody wants to write for Jimmy Breslin.
They don't think he's very fun or entertaining.
And George says, you know what?
One of the best ways to be successful if you're working
in a team or a group is to try to make other people
If "Saturday Night Live" is better, then I'm going to be
better off too because I'm a part of that.
And so he engages in what gets called at the National Outdoor
Leadership School expedition behavior.
Basically saying, if you're going to go and climb a
mountain, try and put the mission ahead of your own
personal interests and desires.
And he says, you know what?
I'm going to submit a few sketches for Madonna, but I'm
going to do my best work for Jimmy Breslin.
And that's really where my work is needed, because so few
people are wanting to contribute good ideas there.
And George ends up writing this amazing skit.
It's called "Bond Villains on a Talk Show." And you get to
see basically Breslin playing a Bond Villain, and they're
comparing strategies for attacking Bond.
And that ends up basically inspiring Mike Myers to do the
"Austin Powers" movies, which was kind of a cool thing to
Well, if you look at what happened to George next, he
ended up moving out to Colorado.
He was working on a Letterman script.
It didn't pan out, and he decided he wanted to do his
And he knew he couldn't do it alone, so he reaches out to a
bunch of his "Saturday Night Live" buddies.
And he was really torn about how to do this, because for a
lot of people George is a really funny guy and he would
be a threat.
You're working in this zero sum sort of competitive world
of comedy, there are only so many jobs.
And George is afraid that if he reaches out to people
they're not going to help him because if he succeeds, that
means they're going to fail.
But one of the things that happened when George engaged
in this kind of expedition behavior is he showed that he
was the kind of person who cared about the group.
He cared about other people's interests.
And as a result, instead of gunning for him, people wanted
to support him.
He kind of established himself as a giver, and as a result,
people were kind of rooting for him when he was doing
work, and they wanted to feel like this is the kind of guy
who deserved to succeed.
Part of the reason for that is most people are matchers.
And if you're a matcher, you believe in a just world.
You think what goes around ought to come around.
And that means when you see a taker acting selfishly, you
want to punish that person.
Usually that means, Robb Willer shows at Stanford,
sharing negative reputational information so that takers
cannot get away with exploiting other people.
Just as you can't stand to see a taker be selfish and get
away with it, you also, if you're a matcher, don't like
to see generous people fail.
And so when somebody's a giver and really helpful, you will
often go on a mission to plot that person's well being.
And I think that's exactly what happened to George Meyer.
All these colleagues came out of the woodwork and they said,
yeah, we'll contribute.
George wanted to write this little magazine called "Army
Man." It was going to be a parody of the US military.
And he reached out to all of these colleagues, and they
just gave away some of their best comedy to him for free.
One of them was a guy named Jack Handey.
And he wrote one of his earliest "Deep Thoughts"
pieces two years before it ever appeared on the show for
George and his little "Army Man" magazine.
George puts out the magazine.
It has all this great comedy in it.
It catches the attention of a guy by the name of Sam Simon,
and Sam is just about to start a little TV show called "The
George ends up getting invited because of this comedy he was
able to do to "The Simpsons," where he becomes an executive
producer, wins a bunch of Emmys, ends up contributing to
a movie that grossed half a billion dollars, and has a
pretty good, successful career.
What's interesting, though, is that he contributed to over
300 "Simpsons" episodes, and he only took credit as a
writer on 12 of them.
And I think this was part of his giver style.
But I think one of the things that Robb Willer points out in
his research is that groups reward individual sacrifice.
And this is one of the ways that givers succeed in
looking for the unpopular tasks and volunteering for
them, and showing that they actually care about the best
interests of the group.
And then when it comes time to determine who should lead, who
deserves opportunities, those are the people who get
rewarded and trusted and respected.
So that's one example of the kind of thing that we see
givers do successfully in collaboration.
Now, some people will look at this and say, this is crazy.
This is not something that I would recommend to somebody
that I cared about.
And if this video clip works, I want to show you my first
introduction to how most people view givers.
Still a 31 waist?
Hey, Lena's Small's on this list.
She's that girl I was going to call for a date.
She was unlisted, and now here's her number.
-Oh, you are not gonna cop a girl's phone number off an
AIDS charity list.
-Elaine, you should admire me.
I'm aspiring to date a giving person.
-But you're a taking person.
-That's why I should date a giving person.
If I date a taking person, everyone's
taking, taking, taking.
No one's giving.
Lena found out how I got her number.
How'd she do that?
-Eh, friend of a friend of Susan's.
-(SHOUTING) Why'd you tell her?
-I had to, Jerry.
It's a couple rule.
We have to tell each other everything.
-Well, you know what this means, don't you?
-You're cut off.
You're out of the loop.
-You're cut-- you're cuting me off?
No, no, no, Jerry, don't cut me off.
-You leave me no choice.
You're the media now as far as I'm concerned.
-No, Jerry, come on.
It won't happen again.
-If you were in the mafia, would you tell her every time
you killed someone?
-Hey, a hit is a totally different story.
-I don't know, George.
-So Lena was upset, huh?
-You know what?
That was the amazing thing.
-What, it didn't bother her?
-No, she said it was fine.
Something very strange about this girl.
-She's too good.
-I mean, she's giving and caring and genuinely concerned
about the welfare of others.
I can't be with someone like that.
-I see what you mean.
[END VIDEO PLAYBACK]
ADAM GRANT: I think that's how a lot of people
view givers, right?
It's a sign of weakness.
But I actually think it can be a source of strength.
And one of the more interesting ways that plays
out is to look at how givers actually communicate.
I had a chance to get a personal taste of this.
A few years ago, shortly after I finished my doctorate, I was
asked to teach a group of Air Force colonels.
And I was supposed to teach them how to lead and motivate.
I was in my mid-20s, and most of them were in their mid-50s.
They were just like the guys out of "Top Gun." Most of them
had flown thousands of hours and had these really pretty
badass nicknames like Stealth and Gunner and Iceman.
And I walked in, and I knew that I needed to establish my
Here was this kid, half their age.
And so I started talking a little bit about my expertise,
my experience, why I could maybe share some knowledge
that would be helpful to them.
And it was a four-hour experience, and I got the
feedback from the teaching forums.
And it was pretty darn painful.
Some of the comments have really burned
themselves into my brain.
But the one that really stuck out the most was quote, "More
knowledge in the audience than on the podium." It's like,
that is very sad.
The others were nicer, but they said similar things.
One person said, gosh, the professors get
younger every year.
How can they possibly know anything about leadership when
they've never led, let alone had a real job.
And I was like, OK.
So part of what I realized there was that I was
communicating a little bit more like a taker does.
Takers try to get respect by gaining dominance.
They try to be as confident as possible.
They try to make sure there are not any
chinks in their armor.
And they want to make sure, as a result, that people see them
And that style didn't feel very comfortable for me.
As a professor, at least, I felt like my job was always to
listen to students, to learn from them, and then try to
figure out what I knew that might be helpful.
And so I had another session with a different group of Air
Force colonels scheduled before they decided to fire me
And this time I decided that instead of going with the
really powerful, confident approach, I would do something
a little bit more powerless.
And I opened up by saying, OK, guys, I know what some of you
are thinking right now.
What can I possibly learn from a professor
who's 12 years old?
ADAM GRANT: And there was this dead silence.
And one of the guys I was pretty sure started to reach
for his gun.
ADAM GRANT: And then they all started laughing, and one of
them said, oh, there's no way you're 12.
I'm sure you're at least 13.
ADAM GRANT: And that sort of became a running joke for the
next four hours.
And I noticed that I had really
bonded with the audience.
I think part of it was because I had called out the elephant
in the room.
But afterward when I read the feedback, it
was night and day.
A lot of them said, gosh, it was a breath of fresh air to
have a young professor who could talk about the
And I think that a lot of it--
I delivered the exact same material.
A lot of it was the vulnerability and humility to
say, look, I don't have all the answers.
And I may not be able to teach you guys anything.
And if you look at the data on this, givers are a lot more
comfortable doing that than takers.
Takers do not want to expose their weaknesses, whereas
givers are willing to communicate in a much more
authentic and honest, maybe even self-deprecating way in
order to form a genuine connection with the people
that they're trying to connect with.
And I think there's a great example of this that dates
back to the mid-1800s.
Somebody that you may have heard of, Abe
Lincoln, was in a debate.
And his opponent called him "two-faced." And I think a lot
of takers would have been offended by that.
I think that Lincoln was a really extraordinary example
of a giver who was always looking for other people's
best interests and how to pursue and support them.
And he didn't even really skip a beat.
And he said, "You call me two-faced.
If I had another face, do you really think I would wear this
ADAM GRANT: And it's a great example of that kind of
vulnerability and humility that establishes a connection.
I think that Lincoln was really clever about it, too.
He knew that his appearance was something easy to laugh
at, but also that it was not going to call into question
And so it was something that he could easily be a little
bit vulnerable about.
There's a classic study that shows why this works.
Elliot Aronson in the 1960s asked people to listen to
tapes of "Quiz Bowl" experts.
Some of them were extremely knowledgeable, others didn't
really have the answers to the trivia questions that were
being posed to them.
And you're listening to this tape, you hear this candidate
answering all these questions right.
And then some of the candidates the tape just ends,
and then others spill some coffee on themselves and you
hear the cup crash and the person's like, oh my
gosh, I'm so clumsy.
And you actually, it turns out, like and respect the
"Quiz Bowl" expert more when he spills coffee on himself.
So Aronson and his colleagues call this the pratfall effect.
And they say, look, we actually identify with people
more when they're human.
But interestingly, it doesn't work if the person is not
"Quiz Bowl" competent.
So if you got most of the questions wrong and you
spilled coffee on yourself, you just look like an idiot.
But I think that this is a lot of what happens when givers
There's some really good research by Alison Fragale at
the University of North Carolina who shows that we
tend to think that powerful speech, the confident, the
assertive, the dominant, is going to earn us status and
trust and respect.
But that that's only true if you're really working
If you have to collaborate, you have to work in a team, or
you have to have clients, you will actually get more trust
if you use a lot of ums and uhs and ifs and hesitations
and tag lines and qualifiers, because what happens is when
you speak in a more tentative, soft-spoken way, people tend
to assume that you have their best interests at heart.
And guess what?
In a collaboration, we care at least as much about whether
you care about my best interests as whether you're
competent and capable and assertive.
And again, I think this is something that often works
really well for givers as they communicate.
This willingness to defer to other people, to show an
interest in other people's opinions
while they're talking.
Those are a couple of things on communication I thought
One other thing I wanted to highlight--
This is Conrey Callahan.
She was a Teach for America teacher who probably
experienced the worst burnout I've ever seen in a classroom.
She has at Overbook High School in Philadelphia where
the graduation rate is abysmally low, the crime rate
is extremely high.
There are students who actually only come to school
two or three days a year.
And she was just exhausted by these students
who wouldn't listen.
And somehow she managed to turn that around and actually
end up getting a National Teaching Award and stay longer
with Teach for America than any of the
people in her cohort.
And when I started to interview her about why, she
said some things that I thought tracked really well
with some recent data.
The first thing she said was at the height of her burnout
she was getting up at 6:00 AM, she was working 'til 1:00 AM
usually, she was having to do grading on the weekends.
Instead of giving less, she gave more.
She started a nonprofit organization called Minds
Matter Philadelphia, where she was
tutoring kids on the weekends.
And I was like, how could you possibly burnout less by
That, I think, defies every principle of physics and
chemistry I've ever learned.
And she said, well, part of what happened was in my
everyday job I don't feel like I necessarily make a dent.
I don't think I have an impact.
Whereas when I'm working with these kids on the weekends,
these are high-achieving low income kids.
And I feel like I spend four or five hours with them, and
I'm actually helping them get into college.
And it renews my hope that my regular teaching
job can have an impact.
And I think it reveals one of the really interesting
principles of giver burnout.
Givers don't burnout just because they're working too
hard or giving too much.
They burnout when they don't get to feel that they're
making the difference that they had set out to make.
And I think that Conrey's idea of starting this nonprofit was
a really interesting way of not only seeing more of her
impact by trying to help people who were really
dedicated to school, but also just created sort of a fresh
experience of being in a different setting and being
able to renew a little bit of energy.
The other thing she did that I think was really clever was
she chunked her giving into blocks, as opposed to
sprinkling it out across the day.
There's an experiment by Sonja Lyubomirsky that looks at
random acts of kindness.
And you are either randomly assigned to do one random act
of kindness every day for a week or five random acts of
kindness in one day each week.
And most people assume that you should do them every day,
and that way you feel like you're helpful every day and
that will boost your happiness.
But Sonja finds the opposite, that doing five random acts of
kindness in one day actually leads to greater happiness
than doing one each day for five days.
We can speculate about why that is.
I think this research is relatively new.
But one of Sonja's dominant explanations is that you feel
like you are actually having an impact.
When you do five acts of meaningful helping a day, they
add up, whereas when you sprinkle them around it's sort
of a drop in the bucket, and it doesn't make you feel like
you're truly making a difference.
I think that that's a really interesting practice.
So there's one Fortune 500 company that actually goes out
of its way to set quiet time windows-- this is Leslie
Perlow's research at Harvard Business School--
to say if you are an engineer, you're constantly interrupting
and getting interrupted by your colleagues, and it's
really hard to get your own work done.
So what if Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Friday mornings
from 9:00 to 12:00 there were no interruptions and you could
get your own work done.
And then you have these windows set aside where you
can be helpful and support others.
When Leslie did that, this particular company had 66% of
engineers show above average productivity.
And at the end of the day they launched their product, which
was a laser printer, on time for only the second time in
And I think this, again, illustrates some things that
givers can do to avoid burnout.
Don't help all the people all the time
with all the requests.
Don't drop everything to support the people around you,
but rather say I'm going to reserve windows where I'm
going to be helpful to the people around me, and then
also I'm going to have times that I block out for my own
Those are some of the things that I wanted to talk about.
Just a few other things you might find in the book if you
How do givers build networks, and how do those look
different from takers and matchers?
How does "Fortune's" best networker--
the guy, not the cat--
claim that he built an extraordinary network?
Some of you may know this man.
Just through random acts of kindness.
And does it actually work?
How does this guy, CJ Skender, an accounting professor,
because he's a giver, know that this woman, Beth
Traynham, whose own mother told her she couldn't add or
tell time, would one day become a national gold
medalist in accounting?
And how did he know that this guy, Reggie Love, who was
written off by many as an athlete, would one day become
President Obama's body man?
What do givers know about spotting talent in others that
takers and matchers miss out on?
Why does a basketball executive named Stu Inman pass
up the chance to choose Michael Jordan and end up
getting a draft bust, Sam Bowie, and then hang on to Sam
Bowie for four years instead of cutting his losses?
What does it take to get other people to avoid the trap that
psychologists call escalation of commitment to a losing
course of action and instead say, you know what, it's over
man, just let her go?
ADAM GRANT: I know sometimes that one hits a little too
close to home.
ADAM GRANT: And then how do you avoid being treated as a
doormat if you're a giver?
What prevents you from becoming a pushover?
How do you deal with a taker and still maintain your sense
of concern for others and generosity?
But my favorite question, is it possible to turn a taker
into a giver?
Maybe not in all of their interactions, right?
But can we nudge people more in the giving direction in our
relationships with them?
One of my favorite ways to do that, some of you have been
part of already, it's called the reciprocity ring, invented
by Wayne Baker at the University of Michigan and
Cheryl Baker at Humax Networks.
The idea is you gather a group of 10 or 20 or 30 people, and
you ask them all to make a request.
Something meaningful, personal, or professional that
they want but can't get on their own.
And then you ask everybody else in the group just to try
to use their knowledge and their networks to make the
And some pretty amazing things happen when everybody adopts
the norm of giving and says, we're just going to all try to
support each other.
Earlier this year a woman came in said, my hero is a man
who's a blogger, but he's also a minimalist.
And he's impossible to contact because he
likes a simple life.
I've wanted for six years to meet him and one, thank him,
and two, ask him how I can help him.
But I don't know how to get in touch with him.
Could anybody help me?
And one person in this room says, yeah, you know what?
I know a blogger who knows him.
And they've been introduced, and they're meeting up for
dinner next week.
I'm very excited to see how it goes.
I think it probably wouldn't have happened unless she had
access to this network of people who in that moment were
willing to act like givers.
And guess what?
Because the requests are visible, it's really hard to
be a taker.
Because when you make that ask, if you don't help other
people, nobody wants to support you.
There are a few people in this room who were present for this
particular request in my classroom when a student named
Michelle said she had a friend who had her growth stunted as
a child and she could never find the right clothing, could
anybody help her?
And another student, Jessica, raised her hand, and she said,
yeah, I have an uncle in the garment business.
And I'm happy to reach out to him.
And three months later, custom clothing
arrived on her doorstep.
And for the first time in the life of Hope, Michelle's
friend, she actually had clothing that fit her right.
My favorite request, though, of all time was a student
named Alex who came in one day we were running one of these
reciprocity ring exercises.
And he said, I think the closest thing to nirvana in
life is riding a roller coaster.
And I came to Wharton because I one day would love to run a
place like Six Flags.
But strangely, Six Flags does not recruit at the Wharton
School of Business.
So could anybody help me figure out how to break into
Another student, Andrew, raises his hand and says,
yeah, I think my dad knows the ex-CEO, I'm happy to get you
guys in touch.
Two weeks later, they have a cell conversation, and Alex
comes into class the next day.
I'm so excited to find out about it.
So Alex, how'd it go?
And Alex was like, I learned something really important
from that conversation--
I will never want to work in that industry ever.
ADAM GRANT: And I was like, OK, at least you were able to
rule that out.
And because of that, I am proud to say that today, at
this very moment, Alex is living his dream happily
employed as a management consultant.
ADAM GRANT: Anyway, I'm happy to talk further.
If you check out the "Give and Take" site, you can rate
yourself on a survey and figure out do you tend to
think most like a giver, a taker, or a matcher?
Although you all know too much now, so your ratings will be
There's also a 360 assessment.
You can anonymously ask anybody who knows who to rate
you, and then basically find out do I see myself the same
way other people see me?
And then there's also a Nominate a Giver feature, sort
of like a bigger version of the way that peer and spot
bonuses often work, where you can write a little paragraph
to recognize somebody that you think
has been really generous.
And we're going to basically recognize one a week based on
voting for the best example of a successful giver.
All right, happy to open it up for questions.
Who's the first victim?
Tina, "Is there a difference between men and women?" In
general, or in "Give and Take?"
AUDIENCE: "Give and Take."
ADAM GRANT: Yeah.
I really try to avoid this question, because I wanted to
write about people, not sort of divide
the world by genders.
But the data on this I think are pretty interesting.
So Alice Eagly and her colleagues have meta-analyzed
about three decades of studies looking at are men or women
more likely to help others?
And they find that the answer is no, they're actually
equally likely to be helpful, but that they specialize in
helping in different domains.
So women tend to do more helping behaviors in close
They spend more time helping their friends, their family
members, and their close colleagues.
Whereas men are more likely, it seems from the data, to
help strangers, especially in emergency situations, which I
think has an interesting macho implication.
Oh, I must be tough and rescue someone now.
But I think a lot of people stereotype women as being more
likely to be givers because a lot of the most important
giving that happens in the world is the close
relationship based giving, and I would love to see more men
acting like women.
AUDIENCE: So you said that for givers, they're at the bottom
and then at the top.
Has that been filtered out by intelligence level?
So I'm wondering if you get to a point where things become
too easy so you start helping people if you're at the top
versus for some people it might be you just help because
you know that's something you can do.
ADAM GRANT: Yeah.
So intelligence is a really interesting question.
In my data, intelligence are close to orthogonal--
intelligence measures are to "Give and Take." So you can
find very, very bright givers, very bright takers.
There is some evidence.
Russell James, an economist, has actually shown the smarter
you are, the more you give to charity, even after
controlling for your education levels, your
And the idea is basically that if you're incredibly high in
intellectual horsepower, it's easier for you to appreciate
all the different ways that you could be benefiting others
in the long run.
I think there's a lot a debate about it.
But there's another study by [? Millet and ?]
DeWitt that actually shows that when you give people an
intelligence test and then you ask them to play a prisoner's
dilemma game where they have to keep money for themselves
or give it to others, the smarter you are, the more you
give to others.
That being said, the correlations are so small that
I don't think they're practically that meaningful.
In the studies that Dane and I did of salespeople we actually
controlled for intelligence and found that even after
taking that out of the equation the giver factor was
basically a very strong predictor of both hitting the
bottom and the top of sales revenue.
The other intelligence data point that I've seen is
there's a great study by Kim and Glomb called "Get Smarty
Pants" which shows the smarter you are, the more likely you
are to be bullied by your colleagues who are jealous,
unless you're a giver.
And that goes back to the point we want to take down
really bright, successful takers, but we want to support
and lift up the bright, successful givers.
things I loved for the session.
It was really interesting.
Going back to the point of showing vulnerability
publicly, I was wondering if that changes
from culture to culture.
Because in certain cultures I have the feeling that the more
senior or the more professional you are,
[? public ?] vulnerability might be seen as something
quite [? narrative ?] intellectually.
ADAM GRANT: Yeah, I think there's a huge cross-cultural
One of the best ways, I think, to think about that is to go
back to Hofstede's classic research on power distance and
say that in cultures where people accept basically steep
hierarchies as appropriate and correct, it's a little bit
riskier to open up and be vulnerable.
I also think, though, that that was maybe the situations
where it's most powerful and disarming for somebody that
you expect to have this incredibly polished
presentation style to actually open up and say, look, I'm
just human, too.
Aronson's research actually showed that it will depend on
the audience, though, how people react to it.
So the people who like those who sort of spill coffee on
themselves or stumble the most are those with average
Those are the people who see themselves as human, and they
like other people to be human.
Whereas if you have really high self-esteem, you tend to
want other people to appear really confident.
If you have low self-esteem, you just
don't like other people.
ADAM GRANT: That may be a slight caricature of the data.
AUDIENCE: Hey, Adam.
Katie Everett, fellow Harvard diver.
I am wondering--
I have my daughter here today, Grace, who's five.
It's take your child to work day.
And I love your work and have been thinking about how do you
foster this kind of mindset in your children?
I'm just wondering if you have any insights into how to do
something like that.
ADAM GRANT: Yeah.
First of all, I think it should be called give your
child to work day, not take.
ADAM GRANT: I was working on that all night.
ADAM GRANT: No.
I think that it's a really interesting question.
As an organizational psychologist rather than a
developmental psychologist, it really stretches far beyond my
areas of expertise.
So I'm more of a consumer in this area
than I think a producer.
But I've had a lot of fun reading some of the research
on what causes some people to grow into givers.
And I'll just highlight a couple of patterns.
I'm happy to share more details if anybody wants to
read the studies.
One is parenting styles are obviously huge.
If you are a role model as a parent as a giver, obviously
your children are more likely to follow suit.
Also, there's some really cool data showing that parents who
end up basically giving their children a lot of freedom are
more likely to encourage their children to become givers.
Whereas those who restrict freedom then essentially raise
kids who want to restrict the freedom of the other people
around them, which is sort of, I think, a little bit more of
a taker move.
The other really interesting data
point on this is siblings.
So this is Paul van Lange's research.
What Paul shows is that a lot of people think first borns
are more likely to be givers because you get a lot of
responsibility training if you have younger siblings.
You have to share and care and feed and babysit.
And it's actually the opposite in a weird sense, which is
just don't be the last born.
As long as you have at least one younger sibling, and then
the more of them you have, the more of this responsibility
training you get and the more you tend to gravitate in the
One other sibling pattern that I think is really interesting
is van Lange shows that people who do a lot of generous
giving are twice as likely to have sisters as brothers.
And you could ask, well, back to Tina's question, why do
sisters turn us into givers?
And there's a debate about that.
I don't want to speculate too far.
But two of the popular explanations are one, women
basically earlier on start giving, and so that rubs off
on their siblings.
And then two, there's some data--
Jonathan Haidt argues that girl babies are literally
cuter than boy babies, and so they attract more empathy and
then people want to help them more, and then they
get into the habit.
Again, this is going very far beyond data.
ADAM GRANT: We have one more question, and then I have two
things I want to say to wrap up.
AUDIENCE: Yeah, I was wondering if you had looked at
how the proportion of givers and takers can affect the
effectiveness of an entire organization.
Because one of the things that I've found since I joined
Google is part of the strengths is that everyone on
average is much more helpful than they
are in other companies.
ADAM GRANT: Yes.
AUDIENCE: And I think that really makes the organization
much better, and even the products that we
produce much better.
ADAM GRANT: Yeah, I totally agree.
I'm probably preaching to the choir on this.
So I wrote a little article that's in "McKinsey Quarterly"
this month that summarizes some of the evidence.
Probably the most powerful data point is Nathan
Podsakoff's meta analysis of organizational citizenship
behaviors looking at when more employees do a lot of helping
and giving behaviors, what happens to entire business
units or organizations?
And showing that you can just take the frequency of helping
between employees on sort of a daily basis and use that to
predict with surprising power organizational profits,
efficiency metrics, customer
satisfaction, employee retention.
And I think that this is actually a big part of
As an outsider, I've just been amazed by the number of people
who are already givers who come here, and also the giving
norms that people get socialized to
right off the bat.
And I think that may be very well one of the secrets to
this company's success.
So on that note, I want to say two things.
First of all, thank you so much for having me.
It's always a real delight and honor to have the chance to
speak to Googlers.
Because some of you already know this, but if I knew that
a company like this existed I probably never would have gone
ADAM GRANT: And it's just really, really exciting to
work with a company that not only has a lot of employees
that are givers, but also has a mission that's so much
about-- well, at least not taking, right?
If you talk about sort of the no evil policy.
But also the genuine idea of actually democratizing
information and making it available to other people.
It's something that I feel really passionately about, and
I feel lucky to have the chance to work with you all.
Second thing I wanted to do is I think that a lot of people
have a hard time recognizing successful givers.
Because even in an organization with a lot of
givers, the takers are the ones who are
sort of in the spotlight.
And the givers are usually comfortable sort of hanging
out in the shadows.
And I wanted to try to solve that problem in two ways.
One is we have some postcards that you can hand out to
anybody that you think has been a giver, to recognize
them for that.
Originally they said, "Thank you for being a giver," and
some people said, oh, that's kind of cheesy.
Especially men said that.
And so we changed it.
They say, "Congratulations, you're not a taker."
ADAM GRANT: So you can pass those around.
There are more to download on the "Give and Take" website if
you want them.
The last thing I wanted to do is just thank some of the
amazing givers who have helped me a ton with this research
since a lot of you are in the room.
If I can ask you to stand up so that we can applaud you.
First of all, the Google People Analytics folks who are
here, please stand.
ADAM GRANT: So much of the research in the book and the
ideas in it were shaped by the work that we've done together,
and in particular Prasad and Catherine have been
Secondly, former students.
ADAM GRANT: In particular, I want to thank Jackie and Jeff
from the Impact Lab who actually did
a lot of this research.
And Jackie for telling me that I should write a book, which I
wouldn't have done had she not encouraged me to do it.
And then finally, Amy Reznesky.
ADAM GRANT: I know a lot of you know Amy already, but she
is the ultimate role model when it
comes to being a giver.
As a professor, I have learned a ton from her, and every idea
in the book was already modeled by her long before I
had a chance to study it.
And I feel incredibly fortunate to
have her as a colleague.
And she's going to turn really red, but if you will all thank
her again for me.
ADAM GRANT: Thank you.
You're free to go.