Give and Take Part 3: The ripple effect

Give and Take Part 3 – The ripple effect

George Meyer – the Simpsons. There is widespread consensus that Meyer was the most important force behind the show’s success.

Collaboration and creative character –  Meyer wrote a lot of humor one called the Army Man and shared it freely and widely.  It came out the same time as the Simpsons started.

Flying Solo –some people work independently and are very successful.  They work collaboratively and are very successful but when they try and go solo they are less successful.  Grant cites research of the efficiency of surgeons who work in interdependent  teams rather than independently is different hospitals.  Their surgery  got better when they worked in teams that worked together.  They did not get better when they stayed in a specific hospital.  If they moved with their teams there was no decline in performance.

I wish I could hate you – givers reject the notion that interdependence is weak, rather they see it as a source of strength, a way to harness the skills of multiple people for greater good.  Mayer  said “I just want to be a good soldier…when people were not excited that is when I felt I had to step up my game.”He surrendered himself to the show.  Intuitively he understood that the best thing for him was for the show to be as good as possible – putting the groups’ goals and mission first.  He had a code of honour – Show up. Work hard. Be kind. What one person said about him: “You don’t think of him as a competitor. He’s someone you can think of on a higher plane, and can trust creatively.”  In the theory it is known as idiosyncrasy credits.

Claiming the lion share of the credit- Meyer had a reputation in the inner circles but toiled in anonymity in the outside world.  By giving away credit he comprised his visibility.  Time would prove Meyer right, despite his short term sacrifices.  Grant goes on to tell the story of Jonas Salk and his work on developing the polio vaccine in 1948.  He did not acknowledge the work of the others in the production of the vaccine and this haunted him for the rest of his career.  He saw himself as independent not interdependent.

The responsibility bias – is exaggerating our own contributions. George Meyer has been overcome the responsibility bias  and in the background has been responsible for “d’oh” an event that causes mental anguish, “cromulent” describing something that is fine, “tomacco” a cross breed of tomato and tobacco and “meh” the expression of pure indifference.  In the Simpsons rewrite room he tried to create an environment  where everybody feels they can contribute – this is known as psychological safety.

The Perspective gap- when you are not experiencing a psychologically or physically intense state, we dramatically underestimate how much it will affect us. It is a freezing room for 5 hours and sits in a hot room for 5 hours.  Then put your hand in a cold and warm bucket of water.  In collaborations takers rarely cross  the perspective gap while givers can put themselves in other people’s shoes.  When you buy a wedding present do you buy your own one you think they will like or buy from the registered list? Research shows that when we take others perspectives we tend to stay within our own frame of reference asking how would I feel in that situation.  We imagine the joy they people will experience when they get the gift but his is not the same joy  as the recipient as they have a different set of preferences.  So to effectively help colleagues people need to step outside their frame of reference.

If you are in a small pond don’t alienate people.  Takers can be a genius but not be genius makers.  Meyer had the opposite effect on collaborators – it rippled, cascaded and spread to people around him.


Professional: – there is a time to fly solo and a time to fly with the group collaborating and moving forward together.  It is refreshing to read ideas that make common sense that are backed up through solid research as with the surgeons’  example and the perceptive gap. .

Professional and life:- George Meyer, as portrayed by  Adam Grant just seems like a decent human being  who has  his life and professional values in sync.

Creative process:-  would the Simpson writers really have thought that,  “d’oh” an event that causes mental anguish, “cromulent” describing something that is fine, “tomacco” a cross breed of tomato and tobacco and “meh” the expression of pure indifference, would catch on like they did? Unlikely – so success needs others to buy into the creation.

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