The Generosity Economy

The Generosity Economy

As I walked into the office I was a little nervous. I was meeting someone I had looked up to for years and had never had the opportunity to meet with one to one. After a little small talk I felt much more relaxed and comfortable and so the conversation progressed.

Then out of the blue they asked, “What can I do for you? What can you do for me? What can we do together?” I squirmed inside and as much as I tried to control myself I’m sure it showed on my face. The rest of the meeting was a blur and I was delighted to leave.

There is something I find uncomfortable about the approach taken. It’s rather formulaic and engineered. The ‘ask’ suddenly changed the nature of the meeting from rapport building into something highly transactional with an ‘I’m being networked’ feel to it. There are three common approaches to networking that I come across:

Networking is simply about ‘Getting’ and answering the question ‘How can you help me?’
Business networking focused on the mantra ‘Give to Get’ applying the law of reciprocity that if we give to people they will reciprocate and give back to us. Strategic networking which advocates the ‘Give Give Get’ approach which promotes putting twice as much energy into giving as into getting.

There is nothing wrong with these approaches, a number of my good friends use them, its just that I don’t like them. Ultimately I find them self-serving because fundamentally they are all about trying to ‘Get’ from other people.

By contrast Relationology is based on a ‘Generosity’ economy in which value is created by what you ‘Give’ not by what you ‘Get’. Our consumer centred culture seems to have an insatiable appetite to ‘Get’ so the generosity economy is highly counter cultural and invites a different approach to the way we treat people, such as:

When you see someone who it appears cannot help you or who you are unlikely to see again be generous to them.

When you go to an event where you are going to meet lots of new people don’t try and sell to them.
Go with the objective of forming one or two meaningful connections with people who you can generously help.

When you invest your time in meeting one to one with somebody don’t waste your time
or theirs by sending them away empty handed. Find a way to be generous to them.

This doesn’t mean we can’t identify prospective clients and focus time, energy and resources on building relationships with them. What it does mean that as we build the relationships we focus on adding value to them and their business rather than how can we make a quick sale.

It is my experience that people hate to be sold to but they love to buy. Simply establishing the relationship, being your authentic self and focusing on adding value is the best approach to selling.

The reality is that every time we are generous in our human encounters whether with a stranger, prospective client or neighbour we ‘Grow’ a relationship and every relationship has the power to change and transform us for the better. This is the essence of the generosity economy that in every human interaction we can choose to ‘Give to Grow’ or ‘Give to Get’.

What is stopping you from adopting the generosity economy today. Stop asking yourself ‘What’s in this for me?’ and instead ask, ‘How can I help this person?’

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