A Bigger Prize Summary By Margaret Heffernan

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A Bigger Prize (2014) is a book that delves into the world of competition and how it holds us back.

This book explains how our schools, economy, and society are ironically stifling collaboration and hindering our growth due to competitions.

This bestselling book provides insight on the cost of competition in education, business, politics, and more.

This thought-provoking read explores why working together is better than competing against one another - with topics ranging from the subtle role of sexism to wealthier countries exploiting others’ resources for their own advantage - A Bigger Prize examines why cooperation can unlock more potential than traditional competition ever could.

Summarizing nearly 40 years of research, this book reveals why “bigger prizes” come from collaboration rather than competition.

A Bigger Prize Summary

Book Name: A Bigger Prize (How We Can Do Better Than the Competition)

Author(s): Margaret Heffernan

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 13 Minutes

Categories: Corporate Culture

Author Bio

Margaret Heffernan is a well-known entrepreneur, blogger and writer.

With four bestselling books to her name, she has established herself as a go-to source when it comes to getting the best information about today's business landscape.

Having started her own blog at an early age, she has gained insights from her experiences that have then been transferred into teaching and writing books.

A Bigger Prize, being her fourth book on the subject matter, explores the ways business culture can affect employees and how managers can create an environment of increased motivation that leads to success.

The Dark Side of Our Obsession With Winning: The Harmful Effects of Competition

Harmful Effects of Competition

Too often, we think of ourselves in terms of winning or losing.

We want to be the smartest kid, the cutest cat, the best stock portfolio, the most Facebook friends and the most impressive CV.

But this obsession with competition has some dangerous consequences, not only for us but for our children and even our economy.

When Robert Goldman asked 198 top athletes in 1984 if they would take an undetectable performance-enhancing drug that would guarantee them a gold medal but also kill them within five years, over half said yes.

That’s just one example of how pervasive this competition mindset can be.

In this book summary you’ll discover why competing isn’t always beneficial and how it can actually harm us in more ways than one.

You’ll also learn about how the Finnish education system avoids competitiveness, why rewards can reduce your child’s creativity and why strenuous workouts in a rubber suit aren’t recommended.

Ultimately, you’ll get all the information you need to understand why it’s important to put an end to this obsession with competing for prizes.

Competition Has Its Downsides and Shouldn’t Define Life’s Purpose

If we constantly view life as a competition, it’s easy to get caught in the mindset that we have to be number one.

We may think that if we can’t come out on top in everything, then we’ve failed — but the truth is that this thinking only leads to disappointment and burnout.

Norbert Triplett discovered that sportsmanship can help you excel in physical competitions, like cycling or Olympic games.

But when applied to our lives outside of sports, competing for anything can take its toll on our wellbeing: when everyone is trying to win something at once, it’s inevitable that most of us will end up losing regardless of how hard we try.

The cost of competition goes beyond simply feeling deflated from not emerging victorious.

It puts unnecessary strain on our mental health, by causing stress and forcing us into the solitary grind of having to do everything ourselves.

In addition, it encourages risky behaviours if the thought of achieving greatness takes precedence over safety concerns.

In conclusion, if we turn life into a competition, what often ends up happening is not just limited success but also greater losses—of wellbeing and a shot at attaining self-contentment through activities which have plenty of rewards beyond winning or losing.

Competition May Lead Students Away from Intrinsic Motivation and Towards Cheating


Too much competition in school can be a detriment to students’ creativity and a catalyst for cheating behavior.

When students are constantly compared against one another and placed in an environment of winning or losing, it affects their intrinsic motivations—the motivations which come from internal rewards like learning how fascinating bugs are or enjoying painting.

These internal motivators create the foundation for creativity and over-reliance on external motivators like competition or praise weaken them.

Cheating may increase as well when students lack intrinsic motivation, as those who are falling behind might not be motivated to try harder if they don’t believe the prize will be worth their effort.

With intrinsic motivations, however, these students become more likely to put in the work needed to succeed since they have something else on their minds other than just winning or losing.

Ultimately, while competition can have positive effects on some students, it should never replace true intrinsic motivation in learning which is ultimately the only type of motivation that will result in a student continually wanting to learn even when there’s no tangible reward or ranking being sought after.

Competition Is Deadly for Relationships and Hurts Intimacy

Competition can have a crippling effect on relationships if left unchecked.

It’s normal for siblings to compete, but when parents play one child against the other in order to incent better behavior or bigger achievements, things can quickly spiral out of control.

This can lead to a feeling of envy from the sibling who is not receiving as much attention and prevent them from being as loving towards each other as they would normally be.

The same danger applies to all types of relationships.

Dating should be an exciting time when you get to know someone, but if competition gets in the way, it just becomes about performance and comparison with others and your date might end up feeling like nothing more than a trophy.

This competition can even creep into existing relationships, leading to power struggles between partners that sometimes result in infidelity.

How Competition Keeps Us from Cooperating and Reaping the Rewards of Mutual Support


Competition has become the primary focus in sports today and this ethos has infiltrated many different areas of life.

But competition can actually be harmful, especially when it means that cooperation, sharing, and mutual support is hindered.

When people think of others as their competitors they are less likely to help each other or exchange ideas and information.

Scientists often keep their discoveries and ideas private for fear that a peer will take credit for them, while bloggers might hesitate to link to another’s article so that theirs doesn’t become more popular than theirs.

But this way of thinking isn’t beneficial to anyone; often collaboration is a much better strategy when it comes to success.

For example, linking your blog post to another blogger will benefit both parties: readers are enriched by the extra content, blogs get more traffic and both authors will most likely develop an audience from the collaboration.

This is especially true in the field of science where progress depends on openly discussing ideas.

Even Albert Einstein needed help from Marcel Grossman for his general theory of relativity!

What’s more is that competition affects our economy too – with great cost to society as a whole.

Competition Pushes Companies Towards Uncontrolled Growth, Leading to Negative Economic and Social Outcomes

Competition can often be seen as a good thing in business, leading to better quality products and services at lower prices.

But there are some cases where competition produces shocking and devastating results beyond what most people would expect.

Take, for example, BP’s acquisition of the oil companies Amoco, Richfield and Castrol.

In order to pay off the debt they had incurred in this purchase, management cut back on maintenance costs at some old refineries which led to a deadly explosion in 2005 that killed 15 people and injured more than 180 others.

Additionally, competition among businesses can lead to higher costs for society as a whole.

Companies paying low wages force their employees to rely on governmental help while meat producers striving to keep prices low create increasingly terrible living conditions for their livestock causing immense suffering.

How Collaboration Can Help Us Move Beyond Our Obession With Competition


When it comes to competition, society often puts too much emphasis on it and encourages people to compete aggressively, resulting in serious damage.

But when used correctly, it can be a great way to motivate people.

Fortunately, we have the power to turn this focus away from competition and onto collaboration for better outcomes.

In the business world, employee ownership and flat hierarchies are ways of promoting cooperation over competition.

For example, giving each employee stock in the company makes everyone focused on making profit without having people competing against each other—such as with boss-employee dynamics—to be at the top in a hierarchical system.

Additionally, implementing flat hierarchies means that staff don’t have to follow strict orders or work on specific teams—so those who want someone to work with them need to convince their colleagues rather than “win” the right position or team.

Businesses such as W. L. Gore & Associates have successfully employed both of these strategies which have resulted in more effective collaboration overall due to mutually shared goals between colleagues.

Another example is within education where Finland has been a model into lessening competition among students with no grades or standardized tests while always ranking high compared to its counterparts internationally because of individual assessments based on their progress rather than paired up against fellow classmates in tests and exams.

This illustrates that inter-student motivation is possible without equating it to a win-lose situation through competition but rather through setting individual targets for each student that boosts their morale instead of comparing them against others which would only breed animosity in the end if not used properly but only for obtaining improved results for mutual benefit amongst students themselves first.

Wrap Up

A Bigger Prize by Margaret Heffernan is a book about the dangers of competition and how it can hold us back from our full potential.

The key message in her book is that instead of relying on competition, we should be striving for a more collaborative system.

This collaborative system will enable us to make bigger leaps forward in terms of wealth, creativity and progress.

She believes this new way of thinking will pay dividends in the long run, with everyone coming out as winners.

By improving collaboration and cooperation between individuals, we can ensure that all of us are working towards a common goal; the betterment of society as a whole.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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