Generosity – the new competitive advantage

Amy WilkinsonThis week in The Extraordinary Business Book Club I spoke to Amy Wilkinson, author of The Creator’s Code: The Six Essential Skills of Extraoridinary Entrepreneurs. It’s a fascinating interview, not least because she explains how she went about turning 5 years of research and 10,000 pages of interview transcripts into 6 elegant principles. (And of course the skills themselves are GOLD.)

The last of the six skills is this: Gift small goods.

‘A small good is a small kindness. It’s something of value for someone else. The idea of gifting it is that generosity… in the modern world makes you more productive. It used to be morally right to do this. Now, in fact, it’s very transparent. Our reputations are very transparent, so people will know that you’re a helpful colleague, and then they want to work with you. Information comes to you. Talent comes to you. Deal flow comes to you. All these things you attract by the nature of being collaborative.’

Amy admitted that this skill was the one that surprised her. 

‘We have a saying in the US: “Nice guys finish last.” If you’re collaborative, and if you’re nice, and you’re helping people, then maybe you’re not helping yourself as much, you’re wasting time, in some cases, by using so much time in helping others meet objectives. The counter-intuitive truth today is that by doing that, by helping other people, you really are becoming more efficient yourself, because we choose who we work with, and other people then want to work with you, and they come to you, and they want to give you information, they want to, also, build up your ideas.’

This is more than reciprocity: it’s not just giving someone something so they’ll feel like they owe you. It’s about consistent, principled generosity, even if you can’t see a direct benefit right now. 

It takes courage and authenticity to do business like this, but it seems that being nice is a genuine competitive advantage in 2016.