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January 3, 2006

Everybody hates a winner

Being number one is great. In many cases:

The downside to being number one is that everybody hates you.

Sometimes number one is hated for good reasons; maybe you stepped on a lot of fingers on your way up the ladder. Often, though, number one is hated for being number one. In the article Losers Take All Jill Neimark reports on a study (Are People Willing to Pay to Reduce Others' Incomes?) in which game-losing participants sacrificed some of their own winnings in order to reduce the winnings of the game-winners. Participants weren't just envious, they were willing to sacrifice in order to pull down number one.

A few weeks ago the Economist ran a story subtitled “being second best is underrated.” It points out that “Ford, Burger King and Target do not have documentary-makers queuing up to attack them” the way GM, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart do, and that Apple’s doesn’t have as many hackers attacking its operating system as Microsoft.

Among the other benefits of second place:

Jack Welch famously said that you should be number one or number two in a category or get out. There is a lot to be said for being number two.

Posted by Bob Pritchett at January 3, 2006 6:05 AM

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