Why Generosity Is the Most Powerful Networking Tool
The book: Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success, by Adam Grant.
The big idea: Our approach to personal interactions--whether we try to seize value from others or contribute it--greatly influences our likelihood of success. Those who are generous with time, connections, and expertise tend to fare best in their professional lives, so long as they also hold ambitious goals for advancing their own interests.
The backstory: Grant is a rising star at Wharton, where he is a management professor.
If you read nothing else: Chapter Two recasts networking as a humanistic enterprise motivated by kindness rather than a mechanism for getting ahead. Chapter Three explains how great leaders subdue their egos and help others achieve greatness, in the process creating cultures in which everyone tries harder. Chapter Seven introduces "sincerity screening": assessing the motives of potential partners, employees, and others.
Nice guys: Grant's gallery of givers is more accessible than are the usual business-book role models. Who wouldn't at least try to follow the advice of Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur who is the most linked-in person on LinkedIn: "You should be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody."
Rigor rating: 9 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). Give and Take is exhaustively reported. And Grant conducted, with assorted colleagues, an impressive number of the original studies cited in the book.