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Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL Hardcover – May 3, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“excellent book” – The Guardian

“All business leaders, not just the one who wants to be chief executive of the “American company” should take notice.” “Professor Martin makes the point particularly vividly, observing that the way we currently reward corporate C.E.O.’s is roughly equivalent to rewarding football teams for exceeding expectations rather than winning games.” — The New York Times Economix blog

"As Roger Martin details in his brilliant, Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism can Learn From the NFL, CEO pay exploded when companies adopted reward systems based upon maximizing shareholder value.” — Huffington Post

“what the reader gets in Fixing the Game is deeply thoughtful business commentary with an excellent marketing case study to boot, namely the NFL” — Graziadio Business Review

“One of the few business school leaders to confront the disgrace of business leadership through the economic crisis, Martin is also a big football fan, and draws provocative lessons from his enthusiasm for the sport.” - CBS News

Named the Best Management Book of 2011 by strategy+business magazine

“Fixing the Game is a passionate, timely, and incisive look at how today’s capitalist system, with its commitment to shareholder value, is leading to bubbles and crashes. He presents some tough-minded solutions.” – The Globe and Mail

“American capitalism hangs in the balance, writes Martin. His book gives a clear explanation as to why this is so and what should be done to save it.” “Brilliant new book…” - Forbes.com

“His conclusions have a global relevance” – Financial Times

“recommend Roger Martin's new book, Fixing the Game, which explores the demands of Wall Street vs. the common sense decisions of Main Street…Martin is clear where successful CEOs and their Boards need to focus -- and that's on the actual game on the real field, not the one played by the bookies.” – Huffington Post

“very accessible text with suggestions for reform that will improve both authenticity and the bottom line.” - Publisher’s Weekly

“a lively, intricate but accessible argument, neatly stitched together with references to the NFL and other sports when analogies are helpful.” - Globe & Mail

“it often offers the additional feel-good fillip of a practical path toward improvement. It is a universe of engaging stories and ultimately uncontentious outcomes -- think the wildly popular oeuvre of Malcolm Gladwell.” - Reuters

“Roger Martin has written a book that is at once original, insightful, and inspirational. With his ‘tell-it-as-it-is’ bluntness, he chronicles the failures of modern-day capitalism and offers clear and realistic policy recommendations for ‘fixing the game’ and building a better world for investors. If you enjoy wit and seek wisdom, this is the book for you.”
—John C. Bogle, founder and former chief, The Vanguard Group

“We’ve gone from an economy based on making things to one based on making things up. Wall Street has been remodeled as a casino in which the expectations market, reflected in stock prices, has become more important than the real market in which real factories are built, real products are developed and sold, and real dollars show up on the bottom line. Roger Martin offers a riveting account of how the expectations game is beginning to destroy the real game, threatening the future of American capitalism. Through his brilliant analysis of the NFL (which will entrance even those who don’t follow the market), he shows us how we can get back to the real game of building for the present and the future. Fixing the Game is a must-read for all who care about business being a positive agent for change in the world. And that should be all of us.”
—Arianna Huffington, cofounder and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post

“Fixing the Game is an essential book, one that should be read by leaders in the business community and financial regulators worldwide. Martin identifies the insidious trap that can so easily seduce entrepreneurs and CEOs—the temptation to simply trade value rather than create it—and provides clear, compelling advice on how to keep focused on the real game—of creating and satisfying customers, running a business legally and ethically, and staying true to a well-thought-out ‘real-world’ strategy.”
—Nandan Nilekani, Chairman, Unique Identification Authority of India, and former CEO, Infosys Technologies Limited

“Fixing the Game artfully links theory and practice, and reminds us that getting both right is important if we are going to fix capitalism. Roger Martin asks provocative questions about what constitutes good management, and forces the reader to consider the ways in which elegant logic or a compelling theory actually undermines commonsense business practice. And along the way he identifies changes—in regulation, business, and governance—that will realign private incentives with the public good.”
—Judith Samuelson, Executive Director, Business and Society Program, the Aspen Institute

About the Author

Roger Martin is dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and a professor of strategic management at the school. He authored The Responsibility Virus, The Opposable Mind, The Design of Business and many articles in leading business publications including Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, and Barron's.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (May 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422171647
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422171646
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #585,221 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Most business books are excruciatingly boring for anyone with even a rudimentary social science background. Business authors value clever turns of phrase over deep argumentation; platitudes masquerade as insights; there are lists, lists, lists everywhere. Read against the background noise of recent business books, Martin's "Fixing the Game" is a welcome departure that harkens back to Peter Drucker's classic works. Most importantly (to me at least) Martin sticks close to the data. Ideas are great; we need ideas, and everyone should have at least one. Martin puts his and other people's ideas to the test using real data on the performance of US companies and the US economy over the past half-century, and Martin's ideas come out on top -- and no, not because he fixes the game!

Martin's title, "Fixing the Game," is a double-entendre: he wants to fix the game of the American economy by making it work better for shareholders, employees, and communities, and he shows how CEOs have instead "fixed" the game to ensure they take the bulk of company profits for themselves. What Martin wants is for government to take a greater role in ensuring that public companies are run for public, not private gain. Square in his sights is the "shareholder value" theory of management, which, Martin shows, is anything but. In implementing strategies that have supposedly been designed to enhance shareholder value, American CEOs have actually destroyed enormous shareholder value while enriching themselves.

A major focus of Martin's analyses is executive compensation.
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Format: Hardcover
Many years ago, Oliver Wendell Holmes is reported to have observed, "I wouldn't give a fig for simplicity on this side of complexity but I would give my life for simplicity on the other side of complexity." I recalled that observation as I began to read Roger Martin's latest book. With consummate skill, he enables an economics neophyte such as I to complete a journey that began in almost total ignorance and eventually reached a point at which a sound (albeit basic) understanding of key economic issues has been developed. The "game" to which the book's title refers is an economic system that based on theories that assume that "focusing on shareholder value maximization using stock-based compensation" will give shareholders a better deal when, in fact, these theories "have the ability to destroy our economy and rot out the core of American capitalism."

The repairs that are urgently needed (i.e. the "fixing" of that system), Martin asserts, require that the "expectations game" end, replaced by the re-establishment of a real market. Why? "The real market produces a positive-sum game for society. Everyone can be better off as more and more value is created for customers. In contrast, the expectations market produces a gigantic zero-sum game." The real market also produces meani9ng and motivation for organizations and their leaders, cobtri9butes to a sense of authenticity for individuals, and in general, Martin submits, "a real market orientation creates individual and societal good, while the expectations orientation creates a downward spiral that threatens both individual well-being and the health of our economy.
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Format: Hardcover
Roger L. Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto, is fighting to change the way we think about and teach management. His newest book, Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL, has its origins in a fine, prescient article he wrote for Barron's in 2003 and is one of the very few business books that is better for the expanded treatment.

Martin sets out to show why capitalism in America has gotten into trouble over the past few decades. He argues that agency theory, derived from neoclassical economics, together with the gospel of shareholder value, has led to managers being compensated for doing the wrong things. Stock-based compensation, for example, focuses executives on expectations markets rather than real markets, where customer value is created. It is this focus on maximizing what should be an ancillary goal that has led to the marginalizing of customers as "marks" to be exploited.

Martin says that executives fix the game of business and try to manage expectations in much the same ways professional athletes would, if they were allowed to bet on games in which they play. Executives indulge in the business equivalents of "point shaving" (sacrificing a few points of advantage to win a game by a lower margin than expected) and "tanking" (making results appear worse than they are to lower expectations and make beating them easier).

The unintended consequence of agency theory, according to the author, has been the creation of a business environment that is akin to a casino, with zero-sum gambling games in which executives win and everyone else loses.
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