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Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL [Hardcover]

Roger L. Martin
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 3 2011
American capitalism is in dire straits, caught in a perilous pattern of increasing volatility, decreasing investor returns, and ongoing bad behavior by executives. And it’s getting worse. Since the turn of the twenty-first century, we’ve seen two massive value-destroying market meltdowns and a string of ethics breaches, including accounting scandals, options-backdating schemes, and the subprime mortgage debacle.

Just what is going on here? Is it the inevitable decline of the American economy? Is it the new normal in a technology-enabled global marketplace? Or is it possible that the very theories we’ve embraced to underpin our capital markets are actually producing these crises?

In Fixing the Game, Roger Martin reveals the culprit behind the sorry state of American capitalism: our deep and abiding commitment to the idea that the purpose of the firm is to maximize shareholder value. This theory has led to a massive growth in stock-based compensation for executives and, through this, to a naive and wrongheaded linking of the real market—the business of designing, making, and selling products and services—with the expectations market—the business of trading stocks, options, and complex derivatives. Martin shows how this tight coupling has been engineered and lays out its results: a single-minded focus on the expectations market that will continue driving us from crisis to crisis—unless we act now.

Using the National Football League as his primary example, Martin illustrates that it is possible to take a much more thoughtful and effective approach than we now do to the intersection of the real and the expectations markets and to governance in general in the capital markets. Martin shows how we can act to end the destructive cycle, including:

• Restructuring executive compensation to focus entirely on the real market, not the expectations market
• Rethinking the meaning of board governance and role of board members
• Reining in the power of hedge funds and monopoly pension funds

Concise, hard-hitting, and entertaining, Fixing the Game advocates seizing American capitalism from the jaws of the expectations market and planting it firmly in the real market—and it presents the steps we must take now to do so.

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“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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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Robert Morris HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Error correction Nov. 21 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an important book for everyone who thinks the Occupy Wall Street movement (as I write the outcome of the movement is undecided) have at least some legitimate gripes against the recent performance of corporate CEOs - including but not limited to the Wall Street Financiers.

Unlike many of the Occupiers, Mr. Martin does not think the root of the problem lies with capitalism or with the "1%" even though he readily acknowledges longer more tenacious difficulties than just the recent financial collapse which has spawned the Occupiers. Rather, he proposes the problem, or at least a good portion of it, can be traced back to a few critical errors initiated in the mid 1970s on compensating CEOs and senior corporate management. Exhibiting that rare commodity, common sense, he goes on to observe such errors can reasonably be expected from time to time (after all, CEOs, corporate board members and even academics like Mr. Martin are only human) and we should, therefore, have mechanisms in place to correct them - and not just the patchwork band-aid approach taken by recent governments. Not exactly earth shaking, is it?

In his short, easily read book Mr. Martin deftly analyzes the corporate crisis from development to present day and puts forward several concrete solutions. Just in case we have difficulty following, he uses the National Football League and, to a lesser extent, major league baseball as nifty easy to understand models. In fact, the book is so plainly written it is tempting to dismiss it as just too simple to be meaningful in today's complex world. That would be a mistake.

Mr. Martin does not and cannot solve everything in one small book but he does make a serious contribution. Whether or not you support the Occupiers, his book is worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb March 13 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Roger Martin is a rare business leader of significant repute to call out our economic system as it is, and then offer tangible solutions that need to be taken very seriously. Anyone involved in capital markets needs to read this book. Seriously.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Six hours of provacative thought April 23 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this book Roger Martin has challenged me to rethink and adjust how I behave when I sit on Corporate Boards and deal with compensation issues.
It's an easy, enjoyable and important read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Book with Occasional Insight Aug. 26 2013
Format:Hardcover
This book was extremely disappointing. I read it after I saw Martin interviewed on TV talking about the problems with the current structure of executive compensation and how it needs to be reformed. I was intrigued by the ideas he was discussing, so I decided to read this book. However, in the book, I thought Martin took far too many extreme positions with very little evidence. He points to the occasional accounting scandals like Enron or Worldcom to broadly conclude that most corporate executives are crooks. He paints the hedge fund industry as holistically unhelpful to society when this is clearly erroneous when you look at what some activist hedge fund investors have done to improve business performance in many industries. For a Dean of a well-respected business school to make such superficial claims was extremely disappointing to me.

On the other hand, he does make some very interesting points about issues with executive compensation and incentives in modern business culture which are definitely valid. Nevertheless, I was extremely disappointed with a substantial portion of the book and wouldn't recommend this book to others.
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