Tis Better to Give
Imagine that there was a Scholastic Aptitude Test for business professionals. Prior to graduation from business school every student would be faced with that singular, life-defining exam that’s been generating sweaty-palms and chewed pencils for decades. Students open their booklets to the verbal section. The following word association question appears: Buy is equal to Purchase as Succeeding is equal to a. Winning, b. Dominating, c. Giving, d. None of the Above. For all those students who marked either “a” or “b” on their test, authors Bob Burg and John David Mann would respectfully disagree. In their new book The Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea, the authors teach readers why the correct answer to the above question is actually “Giving.”
You Make the Choice
Whether or not The Go-Giver will be a source of personal transformation depends entirely on the reader. Burg and Mann have crafted a business parable that is drawing comparisons with Dr. Spencer Johnson’s wildly popular 1998 book Who Moved My Cheese? A reader’s reaction to that book will probably fall in line with how he or she will view Burg and Mann’s volume.
Perhaps the best comparison is to describe The Go-Giver as the business equivalent of a novel by Nicholas Sparks. Individuals who have enjoyed Sparks’ works such as The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, and A Walk to Remember should enjoy The Go-Giver’s simple prose, and it is likely that they will be able to see the twists in the book’s narrative long before the authors reveal them on the page.
Learning Through Story
As written in the jacket notes, The Go-Giver’s mission is to bring “new relevance to the old proverb ‘Give and you shall receive.’” It succeeds in doing so through the thoughtful tale of a young, hot-shot business exec in desperate need of an account to stabilize his third-quarter numbers. It’s a situation that draws in readers with its familiarity. In part due to its simplicity, the authors appear to set a trap for readers who will be thinking of how they would solve the main character’s problems.
As Joe, the young go-getter, learns, the old methods of cutthroat, win-at-all-costs business aren’t necessarily the best way to get results. There is another path for those who are brave enough to follow. In a use of storytelling convention that would make the late Joseph Campbell give a knowing wink, into the breach steps Pindar, a mysterious, yet hugely successful gentleman who guides Joe on his way to discovering a new approach to business and self-discovery.
How readers react to Pindar and his lessons will depend greatly on the reader’s own personality. There are those who may feel themselves draw a breath of surprise as they realize that they are guilty of committing the same sins as Joe.
The Go-Giver is definitely not for the more sardonic of business book readers. The main complaint that many would have about Burg and Mann’s effort is that it makes too broad a leap from “giving is better than receiving” to “stratospheric success in business.” The message is overwhelmingly positive, but the methodology that leads to results is somewhat lacking. On the other hand, perhaps the authors merely intended to set the ground rules and allow readers to apply them as they see fit to their own lives and businesses.
The bottom line with The Go-Giver is that the core of its message is important to a society that some say is descending further and further into crass materialism and crippling selfishness. How one receives this message may vary, but learning and understanding it is essential. The world always needs a fresh approach to its most important messages. For this purpose The Go-Giver is a great way to continue to spread a positive and enriching message.