The Quiet Genius of George Meyer
George is one of these people who is constantly giving away jokes, sharing ideas, letting other people take credit for the work that was done collectively.
Adam Grant is the youngest tenured professor at Wharton and a leading expert on success, work motivation, and helping and giving behaviors. He has been recognized as Wharton’s single-highest-rated teacher, one of the world’s 40 best business professors under 40, and one of BusinessWeek’s favorite professors. Previously, he was a record-setting advertising director at Let’s Go Publications, an All-American springboard diver, and a professional magician.
Adam earned his Ph.D. in organizational psychology from the University of Michigan, completing it in less than three years, and his B.A. from Harvard University, magna cum laude with highest honors and Phi Beta Kappa honors. He has been honored with the Excellence in Teaching Award for every class that he has taught. He has presented for leaders at organizations such as Google, the NFL, Merck, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, IBM, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. He has appeared on CNN and CBC, and designed several experiential learning activities based on The Apprentice in which students have raised over $175,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation while developing leadership, influence, networking and collaboration skills.
Adam’s research has been featured in bestselling books, including Quiet by Susan Cain, Drive and To Sell Is Human by Daniel Pink, and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, as well as hundreds of media outlets, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine,USA Today, The Financial Times, Oprah Magazine, and the Freakonomics blog. Adam has more than 60 publications in leading management and psychology journals, and his pioneering studies have increased performance and reduced burnout among engineers and sales professionals, enhanced call center productivity, and motivated safety behaviors among doctors, nurses and lifeguards. In 2011, he won the triple crown of prestigious scholarly achievement awards from the American Psychological Association, the Academy of Management, and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.
George Meyer is one of the most brilliant comedic talents, I think, of our generation. He’s described by many as the funniest man behind the Simpsons, which is often rated as the funniest show in TV history.
George Meyer has this remarkable story of having worked on over 300 Simpsons episodes and only been credited as a writer on 12 of them. And yet he ended up really receiving a lot of credit ultimately for his contributions behind the scenes. I think one of the ways that this happened was George is one of these people who is constantly giving away jokes, sharing ideas, letting other people take credit for the work that was done collectively.
And a lot of people really were grateful for that. Over time most people, it turns out I find in my research, are matchers, for example, they try to maintain an even balance of give and take. So quid pro quo, reciprocity, if I help you, you help me.
And a matcher really hates to see somebody get away with being a taker. Somebody can be completely selfish and take advantage of someone else and get away with it. And so a matcher will almost always try to punish that person and find ways to make sure that, you know, they can’t get away with exploiting other people. Well, just as a matcher hates to see, you know, really selfish people get away with it, a matcher also feels like if you’re generous and you don’t get rewarded that somehow violates their sense of justice in the world.
And so matchers tend to go around actually promoting and supporting and spreading positive reputational information about these very generous givers. Now I believe that’s part of what happened to George Meyer. Over time when people started to ask, you know, "Who really makes the Simpsons successful?" – there are a lot of matchers out there who would say, “George is adding a lot of value, not taking any credit for it and we need to talk about what a great source of insight and comedic jokes he was.”
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.