In my limited but regular grazing of (I hope thoughtful) media, I came across a long article in the New York Times about a business school professor and consultant named Adam Grant who espouses and lives by a theory of radical generosity. Most of the article is concerned with work activities, not so much with caring for family members or neighbors in need; and for this reason it seemed particularly unusual. Generosity as a primary motive in business relationships?
Quote from the NYT article, “Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”:
“Give and Take” [a forthcoming book by Adam Grant] incorporates scores of studies and personal case histories that suggest the benefits of an attitude of extreme giving at work. Many of the examples — the selfless C.E.O.’s, the consultants who mentor ceaselessly — are inspiring and humbling, even if they are a bit intimidating in their natural expansiveness. These generous professionals look at the world the way Grant does: an in-box filled with requests is not a task to be dispensed with perfunctorily (or worse, avoided); it’s an opportunity to help people, and therefore it’s an opportunity to feel good about yourself and your work. “I never get much done when I frame the 300 e-mails as ‘answering e-mails,’ ” Grant told me. “I have to look at it as, How is this task going to benefit the recipient?” Where other people see hassle, he sees bargains, a little work for a lot of gain, including his own.
The article goes on to examine many related issues, including how not to be taken advantage of.
The gift of this piece is to help us consider what attitude we bring to the tasks in front of us, be they professional or otherwise. Can we re-frame our thinking so that what we might have seen as drudgery becomes an opportunity to improve things for someone else? Can we start each day knowing that we’ll be presented with a string of opportunities to be of service to others? How radically would that change the quality of everything we do?