The pay it forward concept, from Catherine Ryan Hyde‘s novel “Pay it Forward” and popularized w-a-y back in 2000 (who remembers what crashing tech company they were at?) by the movie staring Haley Joel Osment (“I see dead people”), is a perfect guiding principle for almost everything we do, especially in business. Pay it forward essentially means repaying a good deed by doing it to others instead of paying it back to the original person.
I touched on it in a recent post, and I think the concept really should be extended from forward reciprocity to forward do-something-nice-without-anything-done-for-you-yet. Maybe the right phrase would be Pay it Forward in Advance. It seems logical that the best way to affect goodwill among friends, colleagues, customers, business partners, basically anyone you ever talk to – is to pay it forward in advance. One colleague I know refers to it as “surprise and delight”.
I’ve seen a few places online that have turned Pay it Forward into a marketing gimmick, and that’s unfortunate and really tarnishes the idea. But for those that live by it, along with the Golden Rule, Bucket Dipping, and several other nice things you should be doing, I personally believe that paying it forward in advance really works.