It's an accepted fact that what you know is intimately linked to who you know. To sustain knowledge networks, transactions are constantly being made - both social and financial. Some give generously, while others take more than they deserve. It is this give and take that makes the business world go round.   In the spirit of one of our core principles of ‘pay it forward’, we were keen to prove that a giving strategy is consistently more successful.

While greater social value is placed on giving, it often feels like it is the takers - those who put their own needs first - who come out ahead. This begs the question: in a competitive world, can the generous ever fare better than the selfish?

Adam Grant argues that, in practice, they often do. The youngest professor at Wharton and already its most highly esteemed, Grant has written a book called Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. In it, he argues that the social merit of generosity is itself a business asset.

He goes a long way to back these claims up. Using scientific analysis illustrated through anecdotes, Grant shows that people who consistently put the needs of others ahead of their own can easily find that their own advancement suffers. He then goes on to show how and why givers ultimately come out on top.

Grant shows that people who consistently put the needs of others ahead of their own can easily find that their own advancement suffers. He then goes on to show how and why givers ultimately come out on top.

It all comes down to relationships and motivation. The very act of helping makes you feel positive about your work, your role and the value of your contribution. This feel-good factor in turn improves your work ethic. On top of this, when you help others, they tend to return the favour. As a final perk, those who have a reputation for generosity find it easier to ask for help when they need it - gaining access to a wider stock of knowledge and insight.

According to Grant, successful givers recognise that there’s a big difference between taking and receiving. Taking is using other people solely for one’s own gain. Receiving is accepting help from others while maintaining a willingness to pay it back and forward. We all have goals for our own individual achievements, and it turns out that the givers who excel are willing to ask for help when they need it.

There are, however, pitfalls to avoid: giving too much, giving based on incorrectly assessed requirements, and giving to people who do not reciprocate or pay it forward. It is far too easy to let your own goals slip from you when you expend all your time and energy meeting the needs of others, who may not even recognise the value of your contribution. 

Placing limits on what you are willing to give, how much and to whom, is integral to making sure that you also find time for yourself. The book defines a middle path between the giver and the taker as the “matcher”, who aims to give as much as they take, holding themselves and others to account to ensure the balance is maintained.

For us, the giving philosophy Grant extols supports our principles. Our clients know that everything we do, we do for a purpose, and we don’t immediately expect anything in return. What we do ask is that they respect and value the relationship we offer. As our business comes largely through word of mouth, our attempts to go that extra mile inevitably pay off whether we intend them to or not – not just for our clients, but for us as well.