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When More Is Not Better

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When More Is Not Better

Overcoming America's Obsession with Economic Efficiency

Harvard Business Review Press,

15 min read
9 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Striving for economic efficiency can be worthwhile, until it’s not.

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With the sharp focus of an accomplished communicator, professor Roger L. Martin provides a clear-eyed assessment of where America has gone wrong. His timely and accessible text describes how traditional and once-helpful economic models that prioritized production and consumption are no longer healthy for society. His text outlines those unintended consequences that anyone who has ever worked in a large organization will recognize as the problems caused by well-meaning but clumsy attempts at efficiency. In keeping with Martin’s thesis, this is a succinct book that makes a big impression.


American democratic capitalism is a system worth preserving, but it is under threat.

In-depth interviews with diverse Americans reveal that, for many, the US economy is producing disappointing results for them and their families, despite their hard work and educational achievements.

The American system of capitalism and democracy is immensely valuable and has proven itself in the past, but if it stops working for a large section of the population, it could be under threat at the ballot box, as negative narratives take root.

Striving for traditional notions of efficiency produces diminishing returns.

Industrial-era economic models and broad policy directions emphasizing efficiency led to significant growth and higher living standards in the late 20th century. Economics and politics are ingrained in the models, which continue to influence attitudes and policies in the 21st century. For example, philosopher Adam Smith’s “division of labor” model generates economies of scale that ensure more efficient production. Economist David Ricardo’s “comparative advantage” model posits that free trade produces net gains through...

About the Author

Roger L. Martin is professor emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.

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