Aspiring to Inspire | Larry Freed at Give and Take

Building a corporate culture is a complex task. You may want to create an environment in which your employees are generous, helpful, and supportive—but how exactly do you go about it?

Larry Freed of Give and Take, Incorporated believes he has the answer in a product called Givitas—a social platform that encourages “generalized reciprocity,” a way of giving without direct expectation of receiving.

In this episode of UpTech Report, Larry tells us how this platform is helping companies improve efficiency, enhance workplace satisfaction, and increase ROI.

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Larry is the CEO of Give and Take Inc., a company that was co-founded by Adam Grant (Wharton), Wayne Baker (Michigan) and Cheryl Baker. Give and Take provides solutions that help organizations improve knowledge collaboration, foster a culture of generosity and improve engagement.

The Reciprocity Ring is a dynamic, face-to-face exercise where groups learn to bring the “pay-it-forward” concept into action and practice. Givitas is a purpose-built, knowledge collaboration platform that can scale across an organization that makes it easy to ask for and give help every day, while fostering a giving culture and providing equal access to community knowledge and experiences.

Larry’s background includes being the co-founder and CEO of ForeSee, the leader in customer experience analytics. He led the company from inception (2001) to a successful exit in 2013, returning over 22 times the capital invested in the business. After the exit at ForeSee, Larry advised, mentored, and consulted with early-stage and growth-stage technology companies. He also served on the board of directors of various tech companies. Earlier in his career, Larry also had executive leadership roles at Compuware (Vice President) and Bank One (CTO).

Larry has authored two books, Managing Forward and Innovating Analytics.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Larry Freed 0:00
We’re taking the process of asking for help and getting help out of messaging and collaboration platforms and putting in its own platform.

Alexander Ferguson 0:15
Building a corporate culture is a complex task, you may want to create an environment in which your employees are generous, helpful and supportive. But how do you exactly go about doing it? Larry Freed of give and take incorporated believes he has an answer in a product called give us a social platform that encourages generalized reciprocity, a way of giving without direct expectation of receiving. In this episode of UpTech Report, Larry tells us how this platform is helping companies improve efficiency, enhance workplace satisfaction, and increase ROI. Larry, I’m excited to be able to chat with you today, learn more about Give and Take and your product give a toss helped me understand. In five seconds, if you had to describe given taking the concept of your product, what would you say in five seconds?

Larry Freed 1:02
Five seconds. That’s tough. We help organizations collaborate and create a culture of generosity to improve knowledge sharing,

Alexander Ferguson 1:12
love it, a collaborative opportunity for generosity. What year did this this really start off kickoff

Larry Freed 1:20
really kicked off in in 2017. Part of that it was a an effort by Adam Grant and Professor Wharton, and Dr. Wayne Baker, Professor Michigan, and Cheryl Baker, a social scientist, and really to build on the ideas of generalized reciprocity. So when we think of reciprocity, we often think of you do something for me, I’ll do something for you. Generalized reciprocity is I’m going to do something for you and somebody else down the road might do something for me. So to take those concepts, and there was a an exercise that that Wayne and Cheryl had developed 20, some years ago, about how to act, how to teach people about generalized reciprocity and how to actually do an exercise to really make an experience and it’s called the reciprocity ring. And in like 2016, they decided that there needed to be a platform to take that and make it scalable across organizations. And we really brought a team together in 2017, to take it to market.

Alexander Ferguson 2:18
And Adam wrote, Adam Grant read, wrote a book around, give and take. And after that launch is where they kind of started to come together bringing all the mentalities and opportunities to create this platform. Is that kind of correct,

Larry Freed 2:29
yeah. So Adam was a PhD student in Michigan, which is how him and Wayne got connected. Wayne was a professor there at the time. And that’s one way to develop the reciprocity range. So that was a really foundational piece of Adams maturity, maturing through the the Ph. D. program. And, and when he went off and left Michigan, and went towards Wharton, he really took that and became a big fan of reciprocity exercises. And that was a big part of what I would say is the foundation of the give and take Bach

Alexander Ferguson 3:02
2017 and really be able to be coming into fruition where you were, you came in part of this, you had led several different endeavors and organizations before this yourself, right.

Larry Freed 3:13
Yeah, yeah. So I I didn’t in the big company world early on in my career. And then, in technology in the banking industry was his chief technology officer what was called bank one, which is now part of Chase, then went to the business side of technology with a company called Compuware and then started a company with another professor, Michigan, Doctor costs for now that measured customer experience. So it was called foresee results. And then after we sold that took a couple of years, and then decided I still have some life left in me and would jump back in if I found the right thing. And I got introduced to to Wayne and Adam and Sharon loved it. It was just a really exciting idea and something that I would have loved to have had at my disposal. In building companies in that it’s it’s really a powerful tool to help people not only improve knowledge sharing, but also to feel more engaged. And which is a big challenge in today’s

Alexander Ferguson 4:03
world. Indeed, I think we can all appreciate the concept of generosity and a setting of generosity where people are giving a give me a simple analogy or an example of this in play your product, your technology, product and platform in play inside of an organization.

Larry Freed 4:21
Yeah, so we work in large companies, we work in associations, we work in community groups, ecosystems, member based groups, things like that. So really diverse set of customers, which is fun, but it really comes down to a couple of use cases and there’s a lot of sledded individual use cases when you really boil it down. It’s about someone needs help, information, advice, a referral, they need something and they don’t know where to go. And so we describe it as a purpose built platform where you create a safe place for people to ask for help, especially when they don’t know who to ask. So that’s one of the big drivers on the right so I got a question I can call if I if I know you have the right answer. I could call you Alex or text you or IMU or slack, you or email you and say, Hey, Alex, I need some help. But when I’m not sure who has the right answer, or I want a broader base opinion, what do I do? And having a platform that’s purposely built for that lets us do some stuff that’s really incredible. It starts with it being really easy and efficient. The second thing that we do is we also want to make it really easy to be a giver in five minutes a day. And so it’s not about building a platform that lures you in with a message. And you come in the platform, and an hour later, you’re bouncing around and feeling like where did all my time go? I’ve ever really done anything. It’s in and out. They help, right? Yeah, I didn’t want to name any names. Facebook’s great. And, and LinkedIn is great. They also have a purpose. But their business model is, is keeping you on the platform. Yeah. And ours is in focus like that we, we develop these communities. And while we do have some free communities that people can join to experience it and a way of giving back to the community, I mean, with a name, like give and take, we have to give back. But generally are the platforms that there really is what drives our business is where someone an organization, a company that sells on the company. Yeah. And they’re sponsoring it. And then they’re inviting the people to it. And so they’re sort of paying afraid, if you will, but just the use cases, really, I need something, how can I help? The other really interesting thing about it is that people want to help. And nobody really wants unsolicited help. Right? If i Hey, Alex, let me tell you how to run this packet. You don’t want to hear that, right? None of us do. And so then

Alexander Ferguson 6:35
somebody can post it, make the request. And then there’s opportunities in the company to give back. It’s almost sounds like a company specific Facebook group, like people love to join groups about a topic and then they can post comments and thoughts around it, and they get lost on Facebook. But this is a company opportunity to bring opportunities, is it kind of a posting mechanism where I can post it? And there’s certain categories? Or is it something that company sets up? Or is it just certain categories that you provide? Or is it just general? No,

Larry Freed 7:02
it’s general. But it’s not we think of it as different than posting because and this is sort of the challenge with social networks, posting more often than not, it’s not me asking for help, it’s me telling you what you don’t want to hear whether it’s a political opinion, whether it’s a personal opinion, you know, whatever it is, right? It gives people a great sandbox for sharing their life. And there’s a value to that. We’re looking at it as very purposeful, but it’s like when you need something, when you have a question. That’s where you go there. So it’s, it’s much more structured. But in turn, it’s much more productive. It’s it’s much more generous across all of our communities. We’ve never seen anything inappropriate or nasty. We monitor it, but we’ve never seen it and and at first, we were a little surprised, right? But then we started digging into it. And when you think about it, I it’s not a place for me to go and boast or brag or say you’re doing things wrong, it’s a place for me to say, hey, I need some help. And some information

Alexander Ferguson 7:59
overall, how many different clients and consumers are then using this platform on a on a monthly basis? Or being able

Larry Freed 8:05
to Yeah, so we have probably 70 plus communities up and running now. And what’s interesting is, you know, the pace of that growth is quickening, which is great, a little bit fuel, people are scrambling right now, because of the current environment, and how can I keep my employees connected, that are all sitting at home? How can I keep my students connected? That are all, you know, doing remote learning? How can I keep my association together? And connected when there’s no meetings? Right? And are they going to stay members and things like that. So we’ve had some people in the pipeline that have all sudden accelerated their path, which is great, but it’s, um, and within that, you know, we’ll have 1000s of users a day on the platform. But it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting, you know, so we don’t really, you know, if you look at the other networks, in the numbers, a report out, right, and we’re a private company, earlier company, we don’t have to report anything out. But you know, they talk about how many times a day you come, how often how long you’re on the platform, we are to some extent or almost counter to that. So one of the key things that we do is because it’s a structured conversation, we send you a summary of the new things that are there that need help. And, and people often look at that and say, I can’t help today. And they’re done. Right?

Alexander Ferguson 9:23
Tell me though, digging into the technology, can you share more about how it’s different and how it works comparative to like, Well, why don’t I just use like a Slack channel, like we have different Slack channels or a Facebook group for our business or other things? Tell me more about your technology and the power and difference of

Larry Freed 9:39
it? Yeah, that’s a great question. Technology generally works better when it’s very focused on something. Technology Solutions, whether they be a platform or community or whatever, and they’re trying to all things all people generally end up not doing a great job, right. So there’s a trade off there, right. It’s great that you can do a lot of things in LinkedIn and face book, but it all gets sort of watered down after a while because there’s too many things you can do good for the business model, maybe. But as a consumer, it’s actually get a lot noisier. The biggest difference between when we think of those sort of public ones versus, you know, more community based or private, is that it’s, it’s a manageable number of people. So often those get really, really noisy, right. And, and it’s hard to weed out the noise, because for advertising reasons, they’re inserting things in that maybe even are relevant, or they try to be relevant, but you know, different. So that’s one aspect. Another big differences is that it’s so purpose built, it makes it really efficient. And so slack, I think, is a great tool, we actually use Slack at our company. It’s great for small teams, it has a tendency to get really noisy with large groups. I’ll remember I remember probably about 18 months ago, now they had some performance problems. And the the reaction in the Twittersphere. And on, you know, and other public networks was really interesting and tongue in cheek, but was like, Slack, thank you for going down today actually got some work done. And and it’s not negative to slack. It’s really It’s slack is a great instant messaging platform. And it’s an instant messaging on steroids, right. So it’s powerful, more powerful than, you know, what was called a AOL Instant Messenger. Right? You know, I’m showing my age, I remember, in the 90s, right, yeah. And, and it’s better than that. It’s more powerful. There’s lots more capabilities, but it’s still ultimately, it works well, when it’s a smallish team. And when you’re sitting at your desk all day, right? And so you’re, you’re looking at these messages as they come up, and you get interrupted for a split second, and you and you go away. You know, people say it solves the email problem, it shifts the problem out, how

Alexander Ferguson 11:41
does the platform work that it makes it easy for people to give? Do they get an email notification of all their top questions that have been asked that they can jump on the platform? Because people don’t imagine don’t really want another platform to have to log into? Exactly, check. So how, how have you solved that issue that makes it easy for people to want to give? As well as ask?

Larry Freed 11:59
Yeah, we set a schedule for each community. And keep in mind that communities are not endless in size, I would say they generally run between 200 people on the low end to no more than 10,000 on the high end, right. And, and so it’s predicated on that, you’re gonna you’re gonna make requests, people are gonna make requests, I get a digest, we call it digest, I can set my own schedule, but typically, it’s every day up to every day, if there’s nothing new, no new requests that day, and then a group of three 400, not every day, is there going to be a request, then you don’t get a digest, right. So I’m not wasting my time. But the days that I do, I get a very short summary of it, and a link that I can click on that link and go right to where I need to be to offer that help. So it literally is a two minute exercise, right,

Alexander Ferguson 12:44
General pricing options. And for organizations within those sizes.

Larry Freed 12:48
Yeah, it’s tiered based on the sort of target population. And, and we, you know, large companies will do multiple implementations. So as an example, they may do it by division. Another interesting use case is Employee Resource Groups is something that’s a lot more prevalent across companies these days. And it’s a great you can bring multiple employee resource groups together in a given task community, they still have their unique Employee Resource resource groups, but in terms of collaborating, when they have, you know, a lot of the problems groups face are similar to other groups, right? So they can collaborate across and start to build some camaraderie and engagement across that

Alexander Ferguson 13:27
I like division. Tell me then a little bit further out, where do you see given taking in five years from now,

Larry Freed 13:36
five years in today’s world is a long time. Um, but you know, it is we would expect that will obviously continue on the path that we are going I don’t think that we will ever try to be all things to all people, you know, a lot of along the way people say, Why don’t you have direct messaging? Well, because that goes counter to the idea of building trust, to building a cycle of generosity. And and the other thing, I’m always been a believer in technology, is that if there’s other people that are solving the problem, well, let that be go solve a different problem, right? You know, and so we’re not trying to, to, to change email. You know, there are challenges with everything. But email works pretty well, when you think about it. Slack works well, right. So we’re not trying to change that. We’re trying to complement those real much like you take accounting out of Excel spreadsheets and put it into an accounting system. We’re taking the process of asking for help and getting help out of messaging and collaboration platforms and putting in its own platform. Right. And so I would expect us to continue to broaden the product in terms of capability and functionality, but it’s going to stay really, really focused on that aspect of getting help and giving, giving and getting up.

Alexander Ferguson 14:51
Where can people go to to learn more, what’s a good first step they can take?

Larry Freed 14:56
So give and take or give a top stock? COMM will get you up basically to the same place to our Club website. It’s a lot of information there. There is a on there, you’ll see under Resources, there’s actually some free communities that we’ve created to help people understand how this works, but also to provide value to them. So as an example, we have a group of, of HR professionals, we have a, and these are all free, and anybody can join a group of HR professionals, people, analytics professionals, we just launched a few new ones, we launched one for nonprofit leaders and one for Association leaders, they’re all going to go through a really difficult time right now. And they need to collaborate and get ideas and see how what other people are doing to deal with these challenges. And we’ve got a few more on there. And we periodically will add stuff to there. So that’s a great way for someone who’s interested to to check it out and actually participate. We’ve seen some incredible, incredible things happen people making great connections, people getting jobs, people getting feedback on a pitch deck, people finding, you know, filling positions, people understanding what what an approach to a problem is, it’s those things get have solved all the time. Watching this HR group work together is incredible the amount of of information they’re sharing from company to company, and saving everybody time, and everybody’s getting better because of it. And that’s really the goal. It’s, it’s as you move everybody forward, the community moves forward as well.

Alexander Ferguson 16:27
Be sure to check out part two of a conversation with Larry in which he discusses some of the methods he used to ascertain the well being of the workforce and how innovation is not merely a matter of looking forward, but also analyzing the present



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