In his new book, Give and Take, our friend Adam Grant presents surprising stories about how we underestimate the success of givers—people who consistently help others without expecting anything in return. Adam’s an academic, behind his stories are data, so you can dig in, understand and replicate his results. Here’s an excerpt from Give and Take that Adam and I hand-picked for Dragonfly readers. It covers actions for impact: practical steps for increasing your contributions to others.
1. Test Your Giver Quotient
We often live in a feedback vacuum, deprived of knowledge about how our actions affect others. To track your impact and assess your self-awareness, visit giveandtake.com. Along with filling out your own survey, you can invite people in your network to rate your style, and you’ll receive data on how often you’re seen as a giver, taker, and matcher.
2. Run a Reciprocity Ring.
What could be achieved in your organization—and what giving norms would develop—if groups of people got together weekly for twenty minutes to make requests and help one another fulfill them? For more information on how to start a Reciprocity Ring in your organization, visit Cheryl and Wayne Baker’s company, Humax, which offers a suite of social networking tools for individuals and organizations. They’ve created materials to run a Reciprocity Ring in person and a Ripple Effect tool for running it online. People typically come together in groups of fifteen to thirty. Each person presents a request to the group members, who make contributions: they use their knowledge, resources, and connections to help fulfill the request.
3. Help Other People Craft Their Jobs—or Craft Yours to Incorporate More Giving.
People often end up working on tasks that aren’t perfectly aligned with their interests and skills. A powerful way to give is to help others craft their jobs to work on tasks that are more interesting, meaningful, or developmental. Job crafting, a concept introduced by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, involves innovating around a job description, creatively adding and customizing tasks and responsibilities to match personal interests and values. A natural concern is that people might craft their jobs in ways that fail to contribute to their organizations. To address this question, Amy, Justin Berg, and I partnered with Jennifer Kurkoski and Brian Welle, who run a people and innovation lab at Google. In a study across the United States and Europe, we randomly assigned Google employees working in sales, finance, operations, accounting, marketing, and human resources to a job crafting workshop. The employees created a map of how they’d like to modify their tasks, crafting a more ideal but still realistic vision of their jobs that aligned with their interests and values.
Six weeks later, their managers and coworkers rated them as significantly happier and more effective. Many Google employees found ways to spend more time on tasks that they found interesting or meaningful; some delegated unpleasant tasks; and others were able to customize their jobs to incorporate new knowledge and skills that they wanted to develop. All told, Google employees found their work more enjoyable and were motivated to perform better, and in some cases, these gains lasted for six months.
To help people craft their jobs, Justin, Amy, and Jane have developed a tool called the Job Crafting Exercise. It’s what we used to conduct the Google workshops, and it involves creating a “before sketch” of how you currently allocate your time and energy, and then developing a visual “after diagram” of how you’d like to modify your job. The booklets can be ordered online (jobcrafting.org) and completed in teams or individually to help friends and colleagues make meaningful modifications to their jobs.
4. Start a Love Machine.
In many organizations, givers go unrecognized. To combat this problem, organizations are introducing peer recognition programs to reward people for giving in ways that leaders and managers rarely see. A Mercer study found that in 2001, about 25 percent of large companies had peer recognition programs, and by 2006, this number had grown to 35 percent—including celebrated companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos. A fascinating approach called the Love Machine was developed at Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world Second Life. In a high-technology company, many employees aim to protect their time for themselves and guard information closely, instead of sharing their time and knowledge with colleagues. The Love Machine was designed to overcome this tendency by enabling employees to send a Love message when they appreciated help from a colleague. The Love messages were visible to others, rewarding and recognizing giving by linking it to status and reputations. One insider viewed it as a way to get “tech geeks to compete to see who could be the most helpful.” Love helped to “boost awareness of people who did tasks that were sometimes overlooked. Our support staff, for instance, often received the most Love,” says Chris Colosi, a former Linden manager. “Once you introduce a certain percentage of takers into your system, you need to think about what effect an incentive will have, but I enjoyed the idea of Love for tasks that were outside of someone’s job description or requirements.”
To try out the Love Machine in your organization, look up a new electronic tool called SendLove. It’s available from , a new start-up that asks you to start by choosing a recognition period. Team members can send each other short messages recognizing giving, and the messages are all publicly visible.
Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Give and Take by Adam Grant. Copyright © 2013 by Adam Grant