For years, business books have advised executives as if they were warriors about to fight to the death in the Colosseum.
White-collar workers on commuter trains study the ruthless secrets of Jack Welch, the tactics in The Art of War, and ninja techniques in The 48 Laws of Power. Wharton professor Adam Grant wants to stand the genre on its head, arguing in Give and Take that the most successful people aren't take-no-prisoners types, but those who selflessly give the most. Instead of monetising contacts, time, information, or access, Mr Grant suggests that if one just gives it all away, it will be returned in heart-warming multiples.
In Mr Grant's examples, giving can get you elected president: Abraham Lincoln selflessly withdrew from a Senate race in the 1830s but won the support of his opponent in the next election. Giving can also make you rich, as in the case of venture capitalist David Hornik, whose generosity with competitors helped him gain access to the best start-ups.
No business book is complete without a few made-up buzzwords, and Mr Grant doesn't disappoint, dividing people into takers, who look out for themselves exclusively; matchers, who operate on a one-for-one basis; and givers, who part with whatever is asked of them and seek nothing in return.
Mr Grant's a professor at a business school, so it's no surprise that Give and Take is just brimming with studies proving his points. They amaze and instruct and definitely make one wonder if higher education is perhaps overstaffed.
Give and Take is thoughtful and well-researched. If there's anything wrong with it, it's that it's too long and veers into an unintended parody of the 'thinkfluencer's' style.
Nonetheless, it is a book that means something. It may not be the King James Bible or even that Haley Joel Osment classic, Pay It Forward, but it still offers a map for a pretty good way to work.