The New Reciprocity: Give and Forget

GivingI was listening to a podcast yesterday of Adam Grant talking about his new book Give and Take. If you’re familiar with the book, in it he writes about “Dormant Ties.” Dormant ties are those people whom you have known in your life – professionally or personally – but have fallen off your radar and disappeared into your past. These are also people with whom you can easily kick-start the relationship because you have a long history and can skip the getting-acquainted part of relationship building. They will have an emotional memory of you already.

As Grant writes in his book, researchers working with executives asked them to solicit business advice not only from those close and respected colleagues, but also from former colleagues with whom they had no contact with for at least three years. Once the executives begrudgingly agreed to contact two former colleagues (their dormant ties) and ask a few questions of advice, they discovered it was the dormant ties who offered the most valuable and insightful bits of advice and information, not those closest to them.

This morning I was listening to Ken Coleman‘s podcast in which Tim Sanders was describing his “morning devotional.”  Each morning, before checking email – the electronic debt machine – he pauses to reflect and give thanks to people who have been greatly helpful to him recently. Then he reaches out to two people in his life to help. Maybe it’s an introduction, or a recommendation, or an insight he can offer in their work. Whatever it is, Tim tries to make it relevant and valuable, and never with any expectation of return. He calls this exercise Give and Forget.

Here’s the mash-up idea. Resusitate a dormant tie from your past and instead of asking for a favor, give something: an idea, a recommendation, an introduction, a compliment…and then let go. The point of this exercise is not to trade value with someone from your past, or mine your network. The point is to add value to the community. I’m making a habit of it.