Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto

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New Book Argues America’s Obsession With Economic Efficiency is Threatening Democratic Capitalism.

October 26, 2020

Toronto – American democratic capitalism, the force which put the U.S. at the acme of success and once created a better life for most citizens, is in imminent danger. More than forty years ago, a dangerous decline began that has created an unprecedented state of economic disparity. While the rich are getting richer faster than ever, the middle-class family has fallen so far behind it would take three generations to recover – perhaps even longer in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Democratic capitalism only works when the average family benefits enough to keep voting for it. And right now, those families are not. The moment to rethink the economy and embark on a journey to repair the broken system is now.

Roger L. Martin, professor emeritus and former Dean of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, believes the problem is that the economy is viewed as a machine that can be perfected by pursuing increasing levels of efficiency. In his new book, WHEN MORE IS NOT BETTER: Overcoming America’s Obsession With Economic Efficiency, published in September by Harvard Business Review Press, he argues that the obsessive pursuit of economic efficiency is driving inequality and making the economy more fragile.

In order to save democratic capitalism from itself, we must stop viewing the economy as a perfectible machine and instead understand it as a natural system – one that is complex, adaptive, and systemic and which requires a fundamental balance of efficiency with resilience. Prof. Martin lays out the design principles for achieving this balance: work on the component parts of the system while keeping the whole system in view; pursue improvement, not perfection; and relentlessly tweak instead of attempting to find permanent solutions. Further, to create this shift, he calls on everyone who has a stake in democratic capitalism – business executives, political leaders, educators, and citizens – and offers specific actions, all of which have been tried and tested in other contexts, that each can take to help restore balance.

The ideas in the book came together during a six-year project led by Prof. Martin on the future of democratic capitalism at the Rotman School’s Martin Prosperity Institute.

Roger L. Martin served as Dean at the Rotman School from 1998 to 2013, and as Institute Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute from 2013 to 2019. In 2013, he was named Global Dean of the Year by and in 2017, he was named the world's #1 management thinker. He has published 11 previous books including, most recently, Creating Great Choices with Jennifer Riel; Getting Beyond Better with Sally Osberg; and Playing to Win with A.G. Lafley, which won the award for Best Book of 2012–13 by Thinkers50. He has written 28 Harvard Business Review articles. His current writing is online at https://rogerlmartin.com/.

Advance Praise for WHEN MORE IS NOT BETTER.

"Roger Martin leverages his deep knowledge of economic systems to precisely diagnose the systemic shortcomings of the modern economy and his practical experience to lay out a pathway to an economy that works for all. A must-read." — Paul Polman, cofounder and Chair, IMAGINE; former CEO, Unilever

"When More Is Not Better shows what will truly set up our economy for long-term success: a better balance of efficiency and resilience. And it's also the prescription we need as individuals. A must-read for our time!" — Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO, Thrive Global

"The world has never been so . . . well connected, [yet] we remain more divided, with many feeling left behind and deeply frustrated. Martin not only provides a deep and clear understanding of why this is the case but also what can relatively easily be done. . . . I was left with a feeling of optimism about bringing greater resilience to our world." — Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, former CEO, LEGO Group; Executive Chairman, LEGO Brand Group

The Rotman School of Management is part of the University of Toronto, a global centre of research and teaching excellence at the heart of Canada’s commercial capital. Rotman is a catalyst for transformative learning, insights and public engagement, bringing together diverse views and initiatives around a defining purpose: to create value for business and society. For more information, visit www.rotman.utoronto.ca.

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For more information:
Ken McGuffin
Manager, Media Relations
Rotman School of Management
University of Toronto
E-mail mcguffin@rotman.utoronto.ca

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