The Winner-Take-All Society

More business-related books worth a look this month.
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This story appears in the November 1996 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

New issues are likely to hold more significance in the coming years than the widening gap between the rich and the poor. Robert H. Frank and Philip J. Cook tackle this trend head-on in the new-to-paperback The Winner-Take-All Society: Why the Few at the Top Get So Much More Than the Rest of Us (Penguin, $12.95 paper).

Clearly, the worlds of entertainment and sports have long bestowed outrageous salaries on their star players. But, as Frank and Cook point out, economic disparity is far from limited to these fields nowadays. "In effect," write the authors, "the reward structure common in entertainment and sports . . . has now permeated many other sectors of the economy."

We're not merely talking personal incomes, either. Products with little appreciable difference in quality (for instance, the onetime rivalry between VHS- and Beta-formatted home video recorders) battle in a hypercompetitive system in which there is often only one winner (in this case, VHS).

In Frank and Cook's view, such a lopsided reward system ultimately stifles overall economic growth. The good news, however, is that the authors propose clear-headed reforms that make fairness and prosperity indispensable partners.

The World In 2020

Anyone seeking to write a book on a subject as wide as the future development of the world knows that one can only hope to build a small [pile of stones] on top of the mountain of other people's ideas."

Modest words, certainly. But in The World in 2020: Power, Culture and Prosperity (Harvard Business School Press, $14.95 paper), author Hamish McRae gives one of the best previews of the future global economy you're likely to read.

Where is the United States headed? Having undergone the transformation from a manufacturing-driven economy to a service-driven one more quickly than most industrial nations, McRae asserts, will likely pose an advantage once the rest of the world catches up. What's more, our nation boasts awesome levels of research excellence and worker productivity.

High levels of crime and bureaucracy are issues McRae feels the United States needs to address, however. "The U.S. needs to rebalance its priorities," the author warns. "It needs to retain its intellectual and cultural creativity and yet instill in its people a greater degree of self-discipline. It must do this if it is not to find itself playing a smaller and smaller role in the world in the next century."

Successful Intelligence

Forget what you know about intelligence-or, to put it more precisely, what you think you know. Yale professor Robert J. Sternberg turns conventional wisdom on its head with Successful Intelligence: How Practical and Creative Intelligence Determine Success in Life (Simon & Schuster, $23 cloth).

Although not written specifically with entrepreneurs in mind, Successful Intelligence deals with the maximizing of one's own potential-something near and dear to the heart of anyone at the helm of a business. In Sternberg's opinion, society's top performers are those who balance their analytical, creative and practical thinking.

"Successfully intelligent people learn what kind of thinking is expected of them in different situations and then bring to those situations the appropriate intellectual skills," Sternberg explains.

As a child labeled with a low IQ, Sternberg himself was burdened early in his life by the low expectations of others. The fact that he went on to later academic excellence underscores how narrow our perceptions of intelligence often are.

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