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A Bigger Prize

When No One Wins Unless Everyone Wins


One of the 100 best behavioural economic books of all time recommended by Jeff Bezos, Tim Ferriss, Satya Nadella, Brian Tracy and Erik Brynjolfsson.

The Olympics. Britain's Got Talent. The Rich List. The Nobel Prize.

Everywhere you look: competition - for fame, money, attention, status.

We depend on competition and expect it to identify the best, make complicated decisions easy and, most of all, to motivate the lazy and inspire the dreamers. How has that worked out so far?

Rising levels of fraud, cheating, stress, inequality and political stalemates abound. Siblings won't speak to each other they're so rivalrous. Kids can't make friends because they don't want to cede their top class ranking to their fellow students. (Their parents don't want them to either.) The richest men in the world sulk when they fall a notch or two in the rich list. Doping proliferates among athletes.

Auditors and fund managers go to jail for insider trading. Our dog-eat-dog culture has decimated companies, incapacitated collaborators and sown distrust. Winners take all while the desire to win consumes all, inciting panic and despair.

Just as we have learned that individuals aren't rational and markets aren't efficient but went ahead operating as though they were, we now know that competition quite regularly doesn't work, the best do not always rise to the top and the so-called efficiency of competition throws off a very great deal of waste. It might be comforting to designate these 'perverse outcomes' but as aberrations mount, they start to look more like a norm.

It doesn't have to be that way. Around the world, individuals and organizations are finding creative, collaborative ways to work that don't pit people against each other but support them in their desire to work together. While the rest of the world remains mired in pitiless sniping, racing to the bottom, the future belongs to the people and companies who have learned that they are greater working together than against one another. Some call that soft but it's harder than anything they've done before. They are the real winners.

Photograph (c) Robert Taylor

Margaret Heffernan is an entrepreneur, chief executive, and author. She was born in Texas, raised in Holland, and educated at Cambridge University. She worked for the BBC and developed interactive multimedia products with Peter Lynch, Tom Peters, Standard & Poors, and The Learning Company. She has served as Chief Executive Officer for InfoMation Corporation, ZineZone Corporation, and iCAST Corporation. The author of Beyond MeasureWillful Blindness, and A Bigger Prize, among others, she blogs for HuffPostCBS Moneywatch, and

One of the 100 best behavioural economic books of all time recommended by Jeff Bezos, Tim Ferriss, Satya Nadella, Brian Tracy and Erik Brynjolfsson

More books from this author: Margaret Heffernan