Generosity, Engagement and Success

businessmen shaking hands, Caucasian and African-American

Many will recall Gordon Gekko and the movie “Wall Street”. For those who have not seen it, I do recommend you to do so. Here is one of his most famous speeches where he talks about greed:

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind …” [1]

Greed used to be a shameful behaviour, at least for those educated in a Christian environment and as opposite to greed, generosity emerges as a conduct of moral excellence.

But I am not here to recommend you to choose generosity against greed because you will be a better human being. What I am here for is to persuade you that being generous will make you happier and healthier than being greedy. And, for those wondering why am I using this forum as a sort of admonishing pulpit? Well, here is the reason why: Generosity will ultimately lead to higher productivity in organizations and ultimately in society.

So being happier, healthier and richer? Is there any better offer?

No,w this is my story in a nutshell. I’m a born giver. Being a giver (with my family –including my dog, my friends and at work) provides me with great happiness. Greed is so away from my nature that I many times felt a weirdo asking myself whether there was something wrong with my DNA.

So I decided to look into some of the studies on this and, you know what?  I discovered that science backs me up! Science has proved me that I am not an alien, I am simply a happier and healthier person.

These are my findings:

Did you know that when you make a donation to charity, your brain reacts in a similar way to when you are having sex or eating chocolate?  (Many will prefer sex to charity and I may agree to that). The brain scans used in the study revealed that when people made the decision to donate, parts of the midbrain lit up—the same region that controls cravings for food and sex.[2]

Another extensive piece of research (which included nearly 5,000 persons) made at Notre Dame University also found that those being generous whether financial or in any other way are happier and healthier.[3]

But this research also explains that like yoga, meditation or mindfulness, getting the benefit of greater happiness and better health requires a consistent practice of generosity.

Happier and healthier… Some of you are surely getting nervous: What about higher productivity in organizations? Hold on with me for a second.


We already know through a growing body of research on organizational psychology that a positive environment will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees and all persons working for an organization, which is fine. But all organizations need to earn money, grow and become more productive, right? Here comes the good news: Wharton School Professor Adam Grant has researched generosity in the corporate arena and found that generosity within a company actually leads to higher productivity, creativity and innovation![4]

In his book, “Give and Take”, he identifies three categories of individuals: Givers (individuals who contribute to others without seeking anything in return; they offer assistance, share knowledge and make valuable introductions), takers (those that guard their own expertise and time, claim credit for other´s work, believe the world is a competitive, dog-eat-dog place), and “matchers” (those who maintain a balance of give and take).   Gordon Gecko was obviously a taker.

Adam Grant concludes that success nowadays is increasingly dependent on how we interact, how we collaborate with others (this is particularly remarkable in business like ours where knowledge, innovation and creativity is key). The only way to ensure interaction is to support generosity behaviours (givers) and penalise greedy takers.

How about putting everything to practice today in your organization? Make it a brand value. Many of your organizations may today already have a citizenship statement in your websites: Charities your company donates, alliances with other charity organizations, you name it! Which gives us the hint that outbound generosity is working! And it is good so.

But let’s give it a second thought. Here are some questions that we could start giving them some thought.

  • What about you and me? What about us? Do you practice generosity internally? With your team and colleagues?
  • Do you introduce clients to your colleagues?
  • Do you promote your junior member’s ideas?
  • Do you mentor junior members of your organization? (Although I know, you will say “But no one mentored me!)
  • Do you share knowledge and best practices with others?
  • Do we show gratitude to other’s generosity?
  • Do you devote part of your precious time to your colleagues?

Generosity is certainly among us and you can find lots of examples. Look around you. I am sure that one of the most successful persons in your life are also the ones who practice inbound generosity and have made generosity part of their lives. Maybe even part of their personal brand.

Generosity has been indeed part of my life and also part of my success personally and professionally,

So, I started this blog writing about generosity as a conduct of moral excellence but it appears to be a strategic priority for any organization to be more engaged, successful and happier.

Therefore we have to consider seriously to reward those forms of generosity.

And here comes my proposal:  Set yourself a minimum hours per year to for practicing the kind of generosity that will help you be more successful, happier and healthier. Remember the “paradox of generosity”: Giving we receive, grasping we lose.

[1] Gordon Gekko at the movie Wall Street

[2] [Dr. Grafman’s research on].

[3] [The paradox of generosity: giving we receive, grasping we lose. Professor. Christian Smith and Hillary David. Written while at Notre Dame University. Oxford Press 2014. Reflects 5 years research, more than 2,000 Americans].

[4] [“Give and Take”, his best selling book (Viking 2013)