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How Wharton professor & "WorkLife" host Adam Grant makes the internet a better place
Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president of Nintendo of America, explains why you should follow Adam Grant in this segment from Follow Friday.
Here’s the first segment from Friday’s episode with Reggie Fils-Aimé, the former president and COO of Nintendo of America. Reggie’s new memoir is Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo.
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ERIC: Reggie, before the show, I gave you a list of categories and I asked you to tell me about some people you follow who fit in those categories. Your first pick is in the category, "Someone who makes the internet a better place". And you said Adam Grant, who is on Instagram @Adamgrant and on Twitter and LinkedIn at @AdamMGrant.
Adam is the host of the WorkLife podcast from Ted. He's the author of several books, including Originals, Give and Take, Think Again. He's also an organizational psychologist who teaches at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. What was your introduction, out of all of this, to Adam or to his work?
REGGIE: I first met Adam at a small session with other senior executives. It was around the time he had written Give and Take. I had read that book and I had been struck by the thinking and this thought about how some individuals are givers — they are naturally looking to encourage others, work with others, help others — and other people are takers, who simply want to keep taking and taking and taking within a relationship.
And it struck me as a way to think about relationships and how to navigate relationships. One of the key points in the book is if you're a giver, you have to be careful when you're around a taker because it could be exhausting.
Adam and I struck up a conversation at that conference. We continued to be connected through email. I've loved all of his work. I love his latest book and I was fortunate as I had finished my book, I asked him to read it. And he was so generous in giving me a blurb for the book. That was my introduction to Adam.
I really love his work. He's asked me to spend some time with him on campus at Wharton. We're trying to figure out when to do that. It's probably going to be next calendar year, when his students are back. But I'm a big fan of his work, love the messaging, and just love the thoughtfulness, which is why I put him in the category of someone who makes the social space better by his thoughtfulness in his commentary.
ERIC: On the topic of Give and Take, one of the really interesting ideas in that book is that if you look at the graph of who's the most productive or the most successful in an organization, the least successful are the givers and the most successful are also the givers. The takers are somewhere in the middle.
So, when you learned all of this and you started applying what Adam was talking about in your own career, how did you characterize yourself? Did you change anything about how you went about your work or did you change how you viewed people you were working with?
REGGIE: I didn't change my own behavior, but I did work harder to understand the nature of different relationships. I did tailor back my time from people who were pure takers—people who were just wanting something from me, wanting something out of our relationship that was more one-sided.
I was much more thoughtful around reducing those interactions and finding time to spend in more productive types of relationships. I did think about the concept quite deeply and tried to think about how I could be more effective in my role as the president of Nintendo of America, by spending more time with people who had a much more balanced perspective.
ERIC: In your real-life relationship that you've struck up with Adam, has he talked about the fact that he was a young Nintendo addict when he was a kid? Do you know this story?
REGGIE: I do know this story. He shared this with me privately, just how much he played games and he had won some local competitions. He shared that piece of perspective. And who knows, maybe that's what helped open up that initial relationship. I did learn about his love for early Nintendo games.
ERIC: Yeah. He gave a TED Talk when his book Originals came out where he described himself as a pre-crascinator and he says, "This dates back to when I would wake up at 5:00 AM to play the NES." And he would just play games nonstop until they were done. And he shows an image of a newspaper clipping called "The Dark Side of Nintendo." And it's him, slack-jawed, holding the controller, just staring at the screen.
I wonder if folks like him who have played games all their lives; I wonder how that influences your organizational skills and how you approach other aspects of life.
REGGIE: He shared with me a different article. He showed me an article where he was being celebrated for being one of the youngest champions of a particular NES or SNES game. But interestingly, prior to Disrupting the Game, I was actually on a book with a different idea. And the idea behind that book was all the real-world skills that you can learn by playing video games.
It focused on playing games to improve your strategic thinking skills. It touched on playing games to improve your communication skills. So I do believe that certain games do improve your capabilities in certain areas just because of the way the game is constructed or the pace of the game. And I've had many conversations with individuals who say that they are better in their role and in their activities because of the video games that they've played in their life.
ERIC: We talked a little about Give and Take. Are there any other examples of things that Adam has written or talked about that you've been able to apply and to integrate into how you do your work?
REGGIE: I'm constantly struck by the comments that he posts. And he'll take the same comment and post it on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. They tend to be three or four sentence statements that really make you pause and think.
Statements around the nature of your own career and your relationship with bosses. There was one recently where he put forward the idea that, "Look, companies don't owe you anything. Other than a paycheck, it's your responsibility to learn, to grow, and to develop. And when you're not getting these things, you have to ask for them."
I believe it's an accurate statement. It may be stated a bit more forcefully than I would. I think there's a bit more of a mutual responsibility around some of these things. But I always find Adam's statements to make me pause, to make me think, and they always come from a good place. They always come from a sense of wanting to help others or helping to push an idea forward in a positive way.
ERIC: What's something that the rest of us can do to make the internet a better place in a similar way that Adam does? What can the rest of us learn from his example?
REGGIE: I believe it's important to put out factual information. I believe it's important to back up a point of view, even if that view is controversial. I don't believe in simply being argumentative for being argumentative's sake. I think that is not positive behavior.
So, certainly, take a stand, but support your point of view. If you're going to make a comment, support your point of view. These are things that I see in Adam's commentary and certainly things that I try and emulate in the messages that I put out there in various social networks.
ERIC: Wonderful. Well, that was Adam Grant, who is on Instagram @adamgrant and on Twitter and LinkedIn at @AdamMGrant.
I definitely want to get Adam on this show at some point, and if YOU have a suggestion for a future Follow Friday guest, send us an email — firstname.lastname@example.org.