Win­ning at all costs: Is it worth it?

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

In Amer­i­can foot­ball, Green Bay Pack­ers coach, Vince Lom­bardi, fa­mously said: “Win­ning is the only thing that mat­ters.” But is win­ning at all costs really worth it? And is win­ning more im­por­tant than the learn­ing that hap­pens on the jour­ney?

I ran mid­dle dis­tance com­pet­i­tively in high school. I re­mem­ber one par­tic­u­lar Satur­day morn­ing track meet at the Ger­mis­ton Sta­dium as clearly as if it were yes­ter­day. One of the fa­thers was shout­ing at his sev­enyear-old son dur­ing his sprint race, “Jan­nie, run faster! You must win this! No TV for you this week if you don’t win!” Jan­nie gave it ev­ery­thing he had, his small face blood­red with the ef­fort, but it wasn’t enough for his fa­ther. Jan­nie came sec­ond.

His fa­ther shouted at him so loudly and got so flus­tered that he looked as though he would burst a blood ves­sel. He stormed off the track, leav­ing Jan­nie in tears on the podium, throw­ing his sec­ond place medal on the ground as if it was a virus. Although I was only 16 at the time, my im­me­di­ate thoughts were: “This can’t be healthy. Jan­nie is just a seven-year-old kid, not a pro­fes­sional ath­lete! If his fa­ther is al­ready ob­sessed with

win­ning at this young age, Jan­nie will end up hat­ing run­ning and wast­ing his tal­ent. And he will end up los­ing his fa­ther in the process. Is win­ning really worth it?”


This fix­a­tion with win­ning at all costs is as un­healthy in busi­ness as it is in per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, like Jan­nie’s with his fa­ther. Why is it im­por­tant that we stop our un­healthy fo­cus on “win­ning is ev­ery­thing”?

Large or­gan­i­sa­tions such as En­ron rose to power through this win-at-all-costs out­look, only to come crash­ing down when the mag­ni­tude of its de­cep­tion be­came known. The out

come? Yes, the com­pany’s lead­ers suf­fered as they should have, but the dam­age was much more wide­spread: 20 000 em­ploy­ees lost their jobs and they lost bil­lions in pen­sion and re­tire­ment funds. In­vestors lost $11bn as En­ron’s stock plum­meted.

Ap­ple is an­other pow­er­ful ex­am­ple. Ap­ple has grown into one of the most pow­er­ful, rich­est and suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies world­wide, partly by mas­ter­ing global man­u­fac­tur­ing. How­ever, at whose ex­pense? In 2006, news broke that, in China’s iPod-pro­duc­ing fac­to­ries of Ap­ple’s sup­plier Fox­conn, work­ers laboured in sweat­shop con­di­tions. They were paid around $100 per month and worked more than 60 hours a week, while se­vere – some­times deadly –– safety is­sues pre­vailed. Although Ap­ple ex­ec­u­tives say the com­pany has made sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments in fac­to­ries in re­cent years, subst a ntia l prob­lems st i l l re­main. In 2011 Ap­ple ad­mit­ted there were more and more child labour­ers in its fac­to­ries. Sadly, Ap­ple is not the only elec­tron­ics com­pany with a wor­ry­ing sup­ply c hain. Poor work­ing

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