I’ve been catching up on the work of renowned organizational psychologist Adam Grant. Wharton’s youngest full professor and single highest-rated teacher, Grant has been recognized as one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of Malcolm Gladwell’s favorite social science writers. And Grant’s life work has led him to the conclusion that giving is the secret to getting ahead, as a New York Times Magazine cover story about Grant put it.
Many of you might be aware of Grant’s 2013 bestselling book Give and Take, which was hard to miss last year. It was a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller that was also named one of the best books of 2013 by Amazon, Apple, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal. Oprah named it one of her riveting reads, Fortune deemed it a must-read business book, Harvard Business Review considered it amongst the ideas that have shaped management, and The Washington Post named it a book that every leader should read.
OK, so I’m a year behind the curve, but the book lives up to the hype. It’s a fascinating - and important - read.
As an organizational psychologist, Grant has devoted himself to understanding how work can be designed so that people will actually enjoy doing it and want to continue doing it. The traditional theory was that employees were driven by straightforward areas of self interest, be they financial incentives or work that is interesting and offers a path to advancement. Grant’s research has exploded this thinking, asserting that people can be deeply motivated by the opportunity to be of service to their fellow mankind. In fact, Grant has proven that when an employee’s work contributes to improving the lives of others, that worker is more productive than he would be if his job only benefited himself.