Is giving the key to our success?

GiveAndTakeAlthough giving is routinely lauded as a key value within our communities, its reputation in the corporate world is more suspect. Many of us wonder whether giving to others is a detriment to our success. Last year, an international best-seller Give and Take by Wharton business school professor Adam Grant explored this question. Recently, I interviewed Adam about the many ideas he presented in his book. This thought-provoking and informative interview sheds light on the science of successful giving and provides practical tips we can bring back to our own organizations. Check out the interview here

Posted in Empathy

How Money Can Buy You Happiness – Spend It On Other People

Money and happiness have been intertwined in a seemingly endless battle of whether they can co-exist. Not surprisingly, considerable research has focused on whether making and spending money can positively impact our emotional well-being.

Not surprisingly, social scientists have expanded their scope of interest and have started to explore whether how we spend our money is equally, if not more important, than how much we have. Recently, an emerging body of research has highlighted how spending money on other people increases our own levels of happiness.

Another study just published in the Journal of Positive Psychology has offered continued support for this relationship. In this experiment, participants were asked to sort a bowl of paper clips into two different groups. In one case, the participants were told upfront that they would receive a ‘wage’ for their efforts. In the other, people just received the money as an unexpected windfall following their participation.

After receiving the money, participants were given one of two sets of additional instructions. One group was told that they had to spend the money on themselves. Other participants were prompted to spend their newfound money on someone else.

The key question of interest to the experimenters was whether the well-being of the ‘prosocial spenders’ would increase when compared to the self-oriented group.

Once again, the results supported the positive benefits of prosocial spending. People in the prosocial condition were significantly happier than their self-oriented counterparts when their mood ratings at the end of the day were compared with those obtained before their participation in the experiment.

What was especially interesting about these findings was that this positive relationship was maintained, whether or not the monies were viewed as a wage or windfall.


The pursuit of happiness is one of our most important and consuming endeavours. In many cases, many of us misattribute the role of money when considering ways to enhance our well-being. However, evidence continues to suggest that how we spend our money is more important than how much we have.

If you are feeling down and want to lift your spirits, think about buying someone a cup of coffee or invite a colleague out for snacks after work. These small gestures can lead to significant enhancements in our mood as well as the mood of those around us.

Posted in Empathy

Why We Benefit From Eating A Little Humble Pie

Everyone loves to talk about their strengths. From commercials to political speeches, from celebrities to job interviewees, people are much more comfortable talking about where they excel, rather than identifying any potential weaknesses. The prevailing logic is that hiding one’s shortcomings is the best way to put your “best face forward.”

Although this may seem like a reasonable assumption, both research and case studies highlighting the benefits of humility have emerged in recent years. One of my favorite real-life examples comes from Domino’s Pizza.

In the mid-2000s Domino’s pizza was really struggling. The incoming Chief Marketing Officer (Russell Weiner) inherited flat sales cycles in the midst of a struggling economy. At the heart of Domino’s’ challenge was the quality of their pizzas, as various internal taste tests had highlighted. Domino’s then took the extra step of gathering feedback from its various stakeholders, including customers and franchisees, to better inform their future directions. Using this critical feedback, they committed to turning out higher quality pizza and revamped their entire recipe from crust to toppings.

Although the internal directive to change their recipe, which had been in existence for 50 years, represented a bold step, perhaps their most striking endeavor was the level of transparency they showed regarding this critical problem. Rather than try to sweep it under the rug or use ‘creative marketing’ to detract attention, Domino’s took a highly unusual step of tackling it head-on.

Perhaps the most forward-thinking aspect of their ‘re-launch’ was a series of commercials, which aired in 2009 and 2010. In these ads, customers were shown voicing their disgust at the quality of the “old recipe” pizza (e.g., “the crust tastes like cardboard”). These comments were then followed by Domino’s hitting the streets with their new product to re-engage with their harshest detractors to win them back.

The company also released a short-film, which provided the history of the pizza chain as well as showing the painstaking reactions from employees while hearing and reading these complaints.

As President Patrick Doyle noted in the short film, “You can either use negative comments to get you down or you can use them to excite you and energize your process and make it a better pizza. We did the latter.”

Early returns from the campaign indicated it was an incredible success, with a 14.3% increase in same-store Q1 sales from 2009 to 2010, with similar gains realized in Q3 (11.2% improvement when compared to Q3 in 2009).

This trend has continued, with the stock price climbing almost 20% over the past four years. The entire transformation is not yet complete, as Doyle is committed to providing complete transparency to Domino’s customers by 2017 by allowing them to see the entire pizza-making process.

What can we learn from Domino’s?

1)            Do not be afraid to completely start over – Domino’s acknowledged their problem rested in a 50-year-old approach to making pizza and set out to change it. Despite the history of the company being built on this recipe, they committed to change. When the environment speaks, even when we may not like the message, we need to listen.

2)            Use the harshest criticism to inspire next-level greatness – Domino’s could have easily dismissed this feedback or decided not to reach out to these individuals once they re-launched their product. Rather than take this approach, Domino’s included these individuals as part of their campaign with the primary aim of bring these customers back into the fold.

3)            Vulnerability is a painful, yet powerful experience – It is not easy listening to scathing feedback. However, being open and accepting allows us to build even stronger relationships with the people around us, even when we may feel the opposite. Showing our vulnerability and empathizing with the customer experience goes a long way to building a better brand and stakeholder relationships.

Despite our widespread desire for transparency and authenticity, it is very often perceived as a risky endeavor. Domino’s has shown that embracing this fear and being open to learning can benefit ourselves as well as the people around us. The next time you are facing tough feedback, remember the storied franchise that faced these messages head-on. Eating some humble pie and using this experience to maximize our potential opens us up to all of the possibilities that life has to offer. By engaging our detractors with an open mind and a willingness to listen, we can turn our harshest critics into our staunchest supporters.

Posted in Authenticity, Do Good to Do Well, Humility, Self Awareness, Success
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