When I joined the faculty at Wharton, the world’s oldest collegiate business school, I decided to try a giving experiment in my classroom. I announced that we would be running an exercise called the Reciprocity Ring, which was developed by University of Michigan sociologist Wayne Baker and his wife Cherylat Humax. Each student would make a request to the class, and the rest of the class would by to use their knowledge, resources, and connections to help fulfill the request. The request could be anything meaningful in their professional or personal lives, ranging from job leads to travel tips. In a matter ot minuies, I was facing a line of students—some cynical, others anxious. One student pronounced that the exercise wouldn’t work, because there aren’t any givers at Wharton; givers study medicine or social work, not business. Another admitted that he would love advice from more experienced peers on strengthening his candidacy for consulting jobs, but he knew they wouldn’t help him, since they were competing with him for these positions. Soon, these students watched in disbelief as their peers began to use their networks to help one another. A junior named Alex announced that he loved amusement parks, and he came to Wharton in the hopes of one day running Six Flags. He wasn’t sure how to get started—could anyone help him break into the industry? A classmate, Andrew, raised his hand and said he had a weak tie to the former CEO of Six Flags. Andrew went out on a limb to connect them, and a few weeks later, Alex received invaluable career advice from the ex-CEO. A senior named Michelle confided that she had a friend whose growth was stunted due to health problems, and couldn’t find clothes that fit. A fellow senior, Jessica, had an uncle in the fashion business, and she contacted him for help. Three months later, custom garments arrived at the doorstep of Michelle’s friend. Wayne Baker has led Reciprocity Rings at many companies, from GM to Bristol-Myers Squibb. Oftentimes, he brings leaders and managers together from competing companies in the same industry and invites them to make requests and help one another. In one session, a pharmaceutical executive was about to pay an outside vendor $50,000 to synthesize a strain of the PCS alkaloid. The executive asked if anyone could help find a cheaper alternative. One of the group members happened to have slack capacity in his lab, and was able to do it for free. The Reciprocity Ring can be an extremely powerful experience. Bud Ahearn, a group president at CH2M HILL, noted that leaders in his company “are strong endorsers, not only because of the hundreds of thousands of annual dollar value, but because of the remarkable potential to advance the quality of our ‘whole’ lives.” Baker has asked executives to estimate the dollar value and time saved in participating for two and a half hours. Thirty people in an engineering and architectural consulting firm estimated savings exceeding $250,000 and fifty days. Fifteen people in a global pharmaceutical firm estimated savings of more than $90,000 and sixty-seven days.

Adam M. Grant, Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success