Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture

From McKinsey Quarterly

What the article says:


“After the tragic events of 9/11, a team of Harvard psychologists quietly “invaded” the US intelligence system … to determine what makes intelligence units effective. … They identified what they thought was a comprehensive list of factors that drive a unit’s effectiveness—only to discover, after parsing the data, that the most important factor wasn’t on their list. The critical factor wasn’t having stable team membership and the right number of people. It wasn’t having a vision that is clear, challenging, and meaningful. Nor was it well-defined roles and responsibilities; appropriate rewards, recognition, and resources; or strong leadership.

“Rather, the single strongest predictor of group effectiveness was the amount of help that analysts gave to each other. In the highest-performing teams, analysts invested extensive time and energy in coaching, teaching, and consulting with their colleagues. … Evidence from (other) studies demonstrates that the frequency with which employees help one another predicts sales revenues in pharmaceutical units and retail stores; profits, costs, and customer service in banks; creativity in consulting and engineering firms; productivity in paper mills; and revenues, operating efficiency, customer satisfaction, and performance quality in restaurants.

“In giver cultures, employees operate as the high-performing intelligence units do: helping others, sharing knowledge, offering mentoring, and making connections without expecting anything in return. Meanwhile, in taker cultures, the norm is to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in return.


“Stanford professor Robert Sutton notes, many companies, from Robert W. Baird and Berkshire Hathaway to IDEO and Gold’s Gym, have policies against hiring people who act like takers. But what techniques actually help identify a taker personality? After reviewing the evidence, I see three valid and reliable ways to distinguish takers from others.

“First, takers tend to claim personal credit for successes. …

“Second, takers tend to follow a pattern of “kissing up, kicking down.” …

“Finally, takers sometimes engage in antagonistic behavior at the expense of others.”

Why this matters:

Firstly, because the authors highlight (yet again) the importance of culture to success, but what is even more interesting is the recognition of the power of giving, not just to create a culture, but to foster effectiveness and success. The complete article talks about how to foster a culture of giving, and also how to keep the wrong people off the bus. It is a bit longer than what we normally suggest, but well worth the read

Read the article here:

Givers take all: The hidden dimension of corporate culture – McKinsey Quarterly