The Gift: Should we look out for Number … 2?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series The Gift
Click the cover to visit the Amazon page for Grant's book.

Click the cover to visit the Amazon page for Grant’s book.

From Dr. Wayne Baker: Welcome back columnist Terry Gallagher …

Looking out for number one? Many believe that’s the key to climbing the corporate ladder. After all, no one can begrudge you for looking out for your own self-interest: if you don’t take care of yourself, who else will?

The song “Looking Out for #1” by the monster Canadian rock band Bachman-Turner Overdrive put it most plainly:

I found out every trick in the book
And that there’s only one way to get things done
I found out the only way to the top
Is looking out for number one

But a very influential new book by Wharton Business School Prof. Adam Grant says that you’d probably be better off looking out for numbers two, three, four and so on.

“I think that a lot of people go in thinking it has to be all about me, and yet, most organizations are really interdependent,” Grant said in an interview earlier this year on the Diane Rehm show on National Public Radio. “You have to collaborate with other people, you have to serve clients, and so oftentimes helping others is a way to actually rise to the top.”

Grant’s thinking is so original, so striking, so contrary to many commonly accepted notions about career success that it merited a cover story in the New York Times magazine in March. According to the story: “The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others.”

The title of the piece? Let’s make it today’s question to readers …

“Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead?”

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  1. Paul Hile says

    I suppose it has quite a bit to do with the reasons behind the giving. I would imagine that “giving’ strictly to ‘get ahead’ is the equivalent of looking out for number one.

    Giving of yourself without any expectation of return or reward–only good things can come of this.

  2. Kathy Macdonald says

    I think Terry is right in pointing out how this type of thinking is not the norm in many professional settings in spite of all the studies Adam Grant cites in his book, Give and Take. Giving is a long-term strategy and too many are caught in short-term thinking. I love the question, “Is giving the secret to getting ahead?” Giving may be the secret to a lot more than just career advancement.