Adam Grant, Wharton University professor and repeat WorkHuman speaker, is one researcher I follow closely. His own research and the research of others he chooses to highlight always teach me something new and powerful in the world of work, human motivation, and innovation. In one recent article, Grant described the Reciprocity Ring, an approach to generosity that succeeds far beyond other methods of inspiring generosity in others by making it easy for everyone to help someone.
“The way it works is this: Each participant makes a request to their fellow team members. Those teammates are then tasked with pooling their collective expertise, resources, and connections to help fulfill each of the requests contributed – it’s that simple. The idea is to show everyone involved how little it usually takes to get something done when an entire group puts their energy behind one individual’s needs.
“Obviously, the Reciprocity Ring is all about tapping into one another’s networks. Instead of being limited to contacting just the people you know in order to solve a problem – whether that’s your immediate co-workers or a friend – you’re able to access a much wider knowledge base: Who do I know? becomes Who (and what) do we all know? Simply by coming together for a chance to flip that question, people tend to realize how easy it is to share a tip or make a call that has a real benefit to others but a tiny cost to themselves.”
It doesn’t stop there. Drawing on Grant’s Give and Take research, additional analysis showed that, unsurprisingly, givers helped others make the most connections. Yet takers have nowhere to hide, helping the group far more than would be likely outside the ring. Even better, the impact of the experience doesn’t seem to fade after the project ends. The lingering aftereffects of gratitude encourage people to keep paying it forward.
The secret, I think, lies in that nuance with which I ended my first paragraph – make it easy for everyone to help someone. At work, we are all busy. Our to-do lists are long and rarely completed. Yet the collective knowledge, skills, and ability of the team, when tapped from a generosity perspective could deliver better ideas and faster results with a desire to continue paying it forward. Crowdsourcing a portion of compensation through social recognition is an excellent example of how this works. Everyone is given the opportunity to notice the good work of someone and recognize them for it in a meaningful way.
How generous are your colleagues at work? How generous are you? What inspires your generosity toward others to help them succeed?
As Globoforce’s Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting, Derek Irvine is an internationally minded management professional with over 20 years of experience helping global companies set a higher ambition for global strategic employee recognition, leading workshops, strategy meetings and industry sessions around the world. He is a leader in the WorkHuman movement and the co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and his articles on fostering and managing a culture of appreciation through strategic recognition have been published in Businessweek, Workspan and HR Management. Derek splits his time between Dublin and Boston. Follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekIrvine.