Monday, 9 September 2013

The Five Minute Favour

Adam Grant wrote a book called "Give and Take: A revolutionary approach to success" which was published this year by Penguin. This book was pointed out to me by a LinkedIn colleague, Stephen Landry, in a recent post about Adam's book, reposting links from some interviews with Adam.

The book explores what Adam considers to be three personality types: givers, matchers and takers at roughly a population split of 15 - 70 - 15. However, it is written by an academic who is the youngest and most popular professor at the Wharton School, who is consulted regularly by Google, and actually seems to deliver on organisational behaviour promises.

Adam thinks that organisations are most effective when everyone is generous to each other, particularly in a society more trimmed towards service. He cites Bill Gates in talking about the two great forces of humanity: "self-interest, and caring for others" (Grant, May 2013, p. 97; Grant, 2013, p. 157), but feels that thoughtful management can link these two forces together to achieve the needs of the most ambitious people amongst us by showing them there can be benefits in doing favours for others (Grant, May 2013; Grant, 2013).

Adam says “giving doesn’t require becoming Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi" (Grant, 2013, p. 5). He draws on the 'Five Minute Favour' concept created by Adam Rifkin, who says "You should be be willing to do something that will take you five minutes or less for anybody" (Grant, 2013, p. 55). Adam Rifkin does these mini favours in the spirit of "cast your bread upon the waters" (Ecclesiastes, 11:1) with no anticipation of a direct return; but an indirect return to humankind. Each of these mini favours is at a fairly low cost personally to Adam, but can have a big impact on those who received them. Adam Rifkin's reasons for doing these mini favours is to add value to others, although he sometimes asks for a return favour - on behalf of others, not himself.

This is a powerful act of leadership. With an investment of only five minutes any of us could:
  • Introduce two people to create an opportunity with a brief email 
  • Pass on that idea that you had for someone to them
  • Review a product, service or abstract and give concise feedback
  • Write a recommendation for a product or service
  • Refer someone or be someone's referee
  • Share, comment or repost something on LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook.
And what is more, you could easily do one a day. Or you could get ambitious and set aside 20 minutes first thing in the morning and do four. Build the habit of kindness into your day to set the tone.

The funny thing is, when I was reading this, I was thinking: that's what I do. I felt briefly cool!


You can also see Adam Grant on YouTube telling one of the stories in the book at!



  1. Loved that book. Here's my thoughts on the topic.

  2. Thanks Karin - great article, and thanks so much for sharing!!