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A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition

Overview


Get into the best schools. Land your next big promotion. Dress for success. Run faster. Play tougher. Work harder. Keep score. And whatever you do—make sure you win.

Competition runs through every aspect of our lives today. From the cubicle to the race track, in business and love, religion and science, what matters now is to be the biggest, fastest, meanest, toughest, richest.

The upshot of all these contests? As Margaret Heffernan shows in ...

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A Bigger Prize: How We Can Do Better than the Competition

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Overview


Get into the best schools. Land your next big promotion. Dress for success. Run faster. Play tougher. Work harder. Keep score. And whatever you do—make sure you win.

Competition runs through every aspect of our lives today. From the cubicle to the race track, in business and love, religion and science, what matters now is to be the biggest, fastest, meanest, toughest, richest.

The upshot of all these contests? As Margaret Heffernan shows in this eye-opening book, competition regularly backfires, producing an explosion of cheating, corruption, inequality, and risk. The demolition derby of modern life has damaged our ability to work together.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. CEOs, scientists, engineers, investors, and inventors around the world are pioneering better ways to create great products, build enduring businesses, and grow relationships. Their secret? Generosity. Trust. Time. Theater. From the cranberry bogs of Massachusetts to the classrooms of Singapore and Finland, from tiny start-ups to global engineering firms and beloved American organizations—like Ocean Spray, Eileen Fisher, Gore, and Boston Scientific—Heffernan discovers ways of living and working that foster creativity, spark innovation, reinforce our social fabric, and feel so much better than winning.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Nancy Koehn
In this bold sociology of organizations, Heffernan sets her sights on an issue that cuts across industries, nations and individuals: Why is our obsession with winning not only failing to deliver the benefits we expect, but leaving us ill equipped to solve the problems competition creates?…A Bigger Prize is an important call to build more collaborative, trustworthy and enduring institutions.
From the Publisher

“Heffernan systematically deconstructs the social myths associated with hypercompetitiveness while providing a formidable case about how counterproductive, and even perverse, it can be…[She] considers the effects of hypercompetitiveness in the realms of family, education, sports, scientific research, and business and corporate leadership….The step-by-step accumulation of argument and evidence is overwhelming in its thoroughness and attention to detail.”—Kirkus, STARRED review

"In this bold sociology of organizations, Heffernan sets her sights on an issue that cuts across industries, nations, and individuals: Why is our obsession with winning not only failing to deliver the benefits we expect, but leaving us ill equipped to solve the problems competition creates?..."A Bigger Prize" is an important call to build more collaborative, trustworthy and enduring institutions." —New York Times Book Review

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2014-03-05
Entrepreneur Heffernan (Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, 2011, etc.) systematically deconstructs the social myths associated with hypercompetitiveness while providing a formidable case about how counterproductive, and even perverse, it can be. The author considers the effects of hypercompetitiveness in the realms of family, education, sports, scientific research, and business and corporate leadership. She shows that in each subject area, there is a ruling principle at work under which "the product [or result] is prized over the process." In education, making the grade becomes more important than doing the work for its own sake and actually learning in the process. In sports and business, "winning" is the name of the game. Heffernan strengthens her argument by referencing scientific research that proves why hypercompetitiveness, reward-based systems and hierarchical ranking systems don't work. Instead, they have been shown to encourage cheating, gaming the system, secrecy and lack of transparency. This kind of research goes back at least 100 years. The author refers to the work of Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, who proved decades ago that rewards based on performance undermine internal motivation. She also discusses work from the 1950s on the lack of correlation between rewards-based education and creative productiveness, examining how destructive certain kinds of curricula can be. "Using competition to identify the best," she writes, "and then using the best to inspire the rest turns out to be a great theory; it just doesn't work in practice." The costs—excessive stress, unhealthy habits and general unhappiness—often outweigh the benefits of fostering success through competition. Heffernan helpfully compares these consequences to scientific studies of the behavior of chickens in regard to pecking order and other concepts. She also discusses alternate approaches that have been applied successfully in education and business. The step-by-step accumulation of argument and evidence is overwhelming in its thoroughness and attention to detail.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610392914
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 4/8/2014
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 495,779
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive, and author of Willful Blindness, which was shortlisted for the Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book award. Born in Texas, raised in Holland, and educated at Cambridge University, she produced prize-winning programs for the BBC before returning to the United States to run multimedia technology companies. She advises senior executives around the world and writes for The Huffington Post, CBSMoneywatch, and Inc.com.

Visit mheffernan.com or follow Margaret on Twitter @M_Heffernan

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