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A Bigger Prize: Why Competition isn't Everything and How We Do Better [Paperback]

Margaret Heffernan
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

27 Feb 2014
The Olympics. X-Factor. The Rich List. The Nobel Prize.Everywhere you look: competition - for fame, money, attention, status. Being top seems to be everything - but what is it costing all of us? We depend on competition and expect it to identify the best, make complicated decisions easy and to motivate the lazy and inspire the dreamers. But, as Margaret Heffernan shows in this eye-opening look at competition, competition regularly produces just what we don't want: rising levels of fraud, cheating, stress, inequality and political stalemate. Siblings won't speak to each other. Children burn out at school. Doping proliferates among athletes. Auditors and fund managers go to jail for insider trading. Winners seem to take all while the desire to win consumes all, inciting panic and despair. We now know that competition often doesn't work, that the best do not always rise to the top and the so-called efficiency of competition creates a great deal of waste. So what are our alternatives? What are the skills needed for creative collaboration and how do we hone them? Talking to scientists, musicians, athletes, entrepreneurs and executives, in the follow-up to her bestselling Wilful Blindness, Margaret Heffernan has discovered that, around the world, individuals and organizations are finding creative, cooperative 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, sharing a bigger prize.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (27 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1471100758
  • ISBN-13: 978-1471100758
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 222,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Universally relevant and hard to fault, this is an important contribution to an expanding genre' --Iain Morris, Observer

About the Author

MARGARET HEFFERNAN was born in Texas, raised in Holland and educated at Cambridge University. She worked in BBC Radio as a television producer, before leaving to run the trade association IPPA. She returned to the US where she worked on public affair campaigns and with software companies trying to break into multimedia. She then joined CMGI where she ran, bought and sold leading Internet businesses. She is a visiting professor and Entrepreneur in Residence at the University of Bath. She is the author of The Naked Truth and How She Does It, and Wilful Blindness. She writes a regular column for Real Business and the Huffington Post.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing and important reading 10 Mar 2014
By D. A. L
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Margaret Heffernan's belief, based on her years of experience as a business woman, interviewer of others in business and after extensive research, is that high achievement and success in business and other walks of life, is often better attained through cooperation rather than through competition.

I found the book engrossing and the broad range of examples given are very well chosen. The level of research cited is impressive and the fact that this book is written by a business woman who understands the need for businesses to be financially succesful help this book to be very down to earth. It is about time that someone exploded the myth that competition is the only way forward. There are other, much more effective routes. I'm very glad I read it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, interesting and thought provoking 9 April 2014
The thesis of this book is that competition in its most extreme form is destructive and unhelpful. The chapters are wide ranging and cover all types of competition. I felt hugely for the Olympic hopefuls who devote every waking hour of their irreplaceable teenage years to shaving seconds off their speeds in a particular sport, to the detriment of their social life and development, and often putting enormous strains on their bodies, which will give them problems for the rest of their lives. And for what? The tiny chance of a gold, and the even tinier chance that they will become a "name" from which they can subsequently make a living.
Competition is encouraged by the regulatory environment and also between and within Companies. The saddest examples are of companies where no-one will help a colleague, who is actually seen as a competitor. Someone else's success comes at your cost.
Whilst this sounds (and is) very gloomy, the book has lots of examples of better ways of doing things. Collaboration is tough, and does not necessarily get the leader branded a hero, but it works.
I have read a lot of business books recently - this is a business book but a lot more. The style of most business books is dire. Thank goodness this one is well and clearly written but assumes the reader is intelligent. The book's conclusions are thoroughly researched and not handed to the reader on a plate in a few simple short chapters. Life is a bit more complicated than that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book that everyone (including you) should read 21 April 2014
I read this at the same time as Malcolm Gladwell's most recent book, David and Goliath, and it is interesting to compare their ways of approaching a subject. They are similar writers in that they work in the field of popular sociology, using stories to illustrate their meaning and purpose. But whereas Gladwell seems to find an interesting collection of stories and then construct a more or less coherent narrative around them, Heffernan starts from a thesis and then finds ways of exemplifying her points vis accounts from people she has spoken to. In this way, her book feels stronger because it is more thought through. And Heffernan's subject is more important and comprehensive. Try telling people that collaboration is not just morally more appealing than competition, but actually more efficient, and see their reaction. Some will agree, others will argue the point. Either way, it is a subject of great importance given the way the world is today - and the book could hardly be more timely.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
This may be categorised primarily as a business book but it goes so much deeper than that. This is a book that makes you look again and re-evaluate the way we live our lives everyday.

Margaret carefully examines competition within education, home life, business, sport and science with intelligence and insight. It's clear that a huge amount of research went into this book and the cross section of people who have contributed is staggering. Potter Emma Bridgwater, Head of RADA Edward Kemp, and Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, to name only a few.

A Bigger Prize is that rare thing; a non-fiction page turner. I was fascinated from start to finish and amazed at the amount that I learnt. You'll be hard pressed to put it down, but when you do you'll want to change the world all at once.
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