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Cast Your Bread upon the Waters: Why Giving Is the Key to Motivation

For most people, the entrepreneurial process starts with a vision, a dream that is aimed at making other peoples’ lives better. Entrepreneurs find a void between people’s needs and the solutions available to them, and attempt to fill it. Of course, profits and business success are a big part of it, as they should be, but it’s pretty safe to say that at their core, entrepreneurs are givers.

That is why I thought you’d be interested to learn about the work and findings of Wharton Business School professor Adam Grant. In an article in the New York Times promoting his new book Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, Grant shares some of his insights into the importance of being a giver to business success.

While a graduate student at the University of Michigan, he conducted his first set of studies, realizing that his organizational-psychology theories about the relationship between giving and motivation could be quantified. He suggested a simple experiment, to be performed in the university’s fund-raising call center. One of the call center’s main purposes is to raise funds for scholarships, and so he suggested the callers should be exposed to the end result of their doings. For ten minutes they listened to a fellow student telling them how much the scholarship he got changed his life. A month after hearing this testimonial, the call center’s employees spent 14 percent more time on the phone, leading to a 171 percent in revenue.

Through his ten years of research following this initial experiment, Grant defined three types of people: givers, matchers, and takers. Givers give without expecting to immediately gain something back; they are never too busy to help, and they share advice, knowledge, and credit constantly. Matchers are givers; however, they give only when they think their help will eventually provide them with something of equal value in return. Last but not least, takers are looking to get an immediate and greater return from any interaction or exchange, always guarding their competitive advantage.

Going back to my opening statement: Entrepreneurs in general, and SOHOs in particular, are givers—they give to their clients, their communities, and their partners. In order to stay motivated, all they need to do from time to time is to remind themselves that what they are doing truly helps improve someone’s life. Unlike employees in big corporations, who only rarely experience their work directly translating into success and doing good, small-business owners have the luxury of casting their bread on the waters and actually finding it after many days.

Related Posts

The Importance of Passion and Motivation in Business
Giving and Getting Feedback: How to Do it Right

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