In his book Give and Take, author Adam Grant describes his reciprocity ring. A group of people come together and, one-by-one request assistance of others in the room. The request may be for help in any aspect related to their work or personal lives.

Sceptical at first, participants soon saw the value of participating when they saw results. Grant describes one participant who requested help breaking into a particular industry. Another attendee indicated he knew someone in that industry and offered to connect them.

Seems simple, right? Practical too?

The exemplar above is taken from a group of university students, but it seems to me it could be modified slightly to meet almost any situation.

Imagine a typical work meeting. Usually, this meeting consists of an update from the boss, followed by updates from each department, followed by a grilling from the boss if a particular department is not on track.

What if the leadership created an environment where it was psychologically safe for each department head to provide a snapshot of current issues and detail where they were experiencing difficulties? Peers and other meeting attendees could then offer resources to assist or submit suggestions for people to talk to or any additional assistance they then thought useful. Would that be a place you would like to work?

What about the classroom? What if the teacher was able to create a psychologically safe environment where students could discuss difficulties they were having with their studies and other students were encouraged to offer suggestions for offering assistance? Would that be a classroom in which you would be able to learn?

What other scenarios could you envision where the reciprocity ring might work?

I realise there are several obstacles to overcome. Building an environment where it is safe to say “I don’t know and I need help” is a simple concept but not easy.

But nothing ever worth doing was straightforward.