Competitiveness is the most used and abused term in modern economics. Three decades ago it was unheard-of; today a Google search produces more than 35 million matches. Competitiveness has taken the world by storm with frequent name-checks from politicians, business leaders, journalists and academics alike. But is competitiveness a fad or for real? And, incidentally, what is it exactly?

Competitiveness, as defined in this book, is the ability of a nation, company or individual to manage a totality of competences to attain prosperity. Success today depends on more than managing a few well-established core competencies. Along with traditional policies, a nation must also tackle education and security to sustain economic development. A company must manage ‘soft’ issues such as brands and perceptions to beat the competition. And individuals must reinvent themselves and expand their skills to survive. These fields of economic research did not exist a few decades ago. Today, competitiveness makes the link.

TopClass Competitors is a journey through the brave new world of competitiveness. What are its historical origins? How does it impact the management of a nation? How do companies thrive on it in an international environment? What is the impact on work structures and value systems? Above all, is there a competitiveness mindset? Exploring how the concept works and how its issues are intertwined, Stéphane Garelli shows why competitiveness is the most powerful tool available to unleash new levels of prosperity for nations, profit for companies and success for people.

Endorsements of the book

Global competition has significantly changed most industries. Stephane Garelli, with his IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook background, brings interesting, eye-opening insights to this key topic.

Matti Alahuhta, President, KONE Corporation

Every global leader will find this work not just important, but a necessity.

Warren Bennis, Distinguished Professor of Management,University of Southern California, and author of On Becoming a Leader.

The "world" has never been as competitive as today. Thanks to technological advances, the playing field has grown considerably wider. New and hungry entrants are claiming a share of the business. Established companies, as well as states and individuals, need to develop a new frame of mind and find new ways to enhance their competitiveness if they are to survive. The merit of Stephane Garelli’s book is to remind all of us that, unless one can make it and stay in the Top Class, the years ahead may become quite painful.

Daniel Borel, Co-founder, Chairman of the Board, Logitech S.A.

Today, competitiveness is on the top on our agenda at Nestlé. Stéphane Garelli is one of the most stimulating thinkers that I have met on the subject and his research, writings and teaching have had a major impact on the way we approach this fundamental challenge at Nestlé.

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Nestlé S.A.

In a world, which is becoming increasingly globalized, Dubai is constantly reinventing itself in order to sustain its competitive advantage over other cities. Stephane Garelli's work has had a strong influence on our strategies by allowing us to focus on non-traditional means of building competitiveness.

Ahmad bin Byat, Director General of the Dubai Technology, Electronic and Media Free Zone, former Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Internet City.

A typically insightful exposition of the what, the why and the how of competitiveness, surely the key to success for companies and societies !

Jonathan Leslie, Chief Executive Officer, Sappi Limited

Moving into highly "consumer" driven markets, we at HP had learned that inventing and building the best products imaginable, regardless of price and availability, no longer guarantied competitiveness. Stephane Garelli’s work helped us to better understand the new criteria of success and to put in place the mindset and the organizational structure to create "Total Customer Satisfaction".

Franz Nawratil, former Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard Europe.

As China becomes a new member of WTO, Chinese companies emerge into the international arena of competition. Competitiveness becomes the key issue for their existence and development. Top Class Competitors will be a top concern and a shining example not only for China, but also for nations, companies and individuals both in developed and developing countries as well.

Pan Chengliegh, Professor, Deputy Director-General, China Enterprise Confederation, Vice President, China Enterprise Management Science Foundation


     100 questions: How competitiveness influences your life!

Competitiveness, like social networks, sustainable development or climate change, is a topic that has captured the world. Politicians, businessmen and media constantly refer to it. What does it mean? How does it influence our lives?

The goal of this book is to move beyond academic analysis and illustrate the day-to-day realities of competitiveness. What are the most commonly asked questions? This book offers 100 of them. Some deal with competitiveness (Is boring competitive?), while others deal with leadership (Is failure the price of success?), society (Do we work too much?) and the world around us (What are things worth?). Finally, some are more personal (Are you irreplaceable?).

The style avoids technical terms since economics need not be complicated or boring to be relevant. The answers stress the impact of competitiveness on our daily lives. Why am I concerned? What can I do about it?








Foreword. 9

1.      Are you a Tiger, a Cat or a Dinosaur?. 11


2.      Are you as competitive as Usain Bolt?. 14

3.      Is competitiveness like playing snooker?. 16

4.      When was economics first recorded?. 18

5.      When was work rationalized?. 20

6.      Can we trust statistics?. 22

7.      Does economics have a moral side?. 24

8.      Did Darwin defend only the fittest?. 26

9.      Why care about growth?. 28

10.        What shape will the new economic cycles take?. 30

11.        Do we need the rich?. 32

12.        Can you be rich and useless?. 34

13.        Is boring competitive?. 36

14.        Is “societal capitalism” the future?. 38


15.        What are the roads to prosperity?. 41

16.        Have women been victims of the plow?. 43

17.        Is the world becoming less poor?. 45

18.        Where do our products come from?. 47

19.        Should we care about “Made in”?. 49

20.        Can China invent?. 51

21.        Are low wages necessary to be competitive?. 53

22.        Is the South becoming more competitive?. 55

23.        What products do the less poor need?. 57

24.        Is Africa the next Eldorado?. 59

25.        Are you part of the middle class?. 61

26.        Where does the new middle class come from?. 63

27.        Is the shadow economy useful?. 65

28.        Is tourism a false friend?. 67

29.        Should we fear international investments?. 69

30.        Should an economic strategy be aggressive or attractive?. 71

31.        What is the longest word?. 73

32.        Is a product more than a product?. 75

33.        Is quality expensive?. 77

34.        What are things worth?. 79

35.        Is there a future for small countries?. 81

36.        What is the recipe for a country’s success?. 83


37.        Do business leaders think?. 86

38.        Are we asking the wrong questions?. 88

39.        Is thinking dangerous?. 90

40.        Are you a born leader?. 92

41.        Should political leaders be better educated?. 94

42.        What makes a business legitimate?. 96

43.        Should managers receive honorary titles?. 98

44.        Does the learning organization exist?. 100

45.        How to avoid just doing more of the same?. 102

46.        Are specialists dangerous?. 104

47.        Should companies be in the countryside?. 106

48.        Do traditional sectors innovate?. 108

49.        Why do large companies disappear?. 110

50.        Who are your friends and who are your enemies?. 112

51.        Is ambition acceptable?. 114

52.        Is risk necessary?. 116

53.        Is failure the price of success?. 118

54.        What does a salesman who doesn’t sell look like?. 120

55.        Should we worry about details?. 122

56.        Do you need it or do you want it?. 124

57.        How can a good idea turn into a bad one?. 126


58.        Is austerity a vice or a virtue?. 129

59.        What is the legacy of corporatism?. 131

60.        Are you a neoliberal?. 133

61.        Can politicians decide quickly?. 135

62.        Why should we be productive?. 137

63.        Is inflation addictive?. 139

64.        Can consumers also produce?. 141

65.        What do the Japanese think about?. 143

66.        Why is English so successful?. 145

67.        Do you belong to the third culture?. 147

68.        How do value systems evolve?. 149

69.        Are our children intelligent?. 151

70.        Is math dangerous?. 153

71.        Do you understand young people?. 155

72.        Is the new generation that bad?. 157

73.        How about parachuting a laptop?. 159

74.        Are inequalities dangerous?. 161

75.        Do we work too much?. 163

76.        Is water tomorrow’s blue gold?. 165

77.        Should we eat our dog?. 167

PART V: YOU.. 169

78.        How many friends do you need?. 170

79.        Are people easily deceived?. 172

80.        Famous or infamous on the Internet?. 174

81.        Are you mobile?. 176

82.        Should we get up at 5 a.m.?. 178

83.        Are you irreplaceable?. 180

84.        How to reinvent oneself?. 182

85.        Do you have market value?. 184

86.        Do you really need an office?. 186

87.        How should you dress at work?. 188

88.        Making a speech or speaking to people?. 190

89.        Does success have its own rules?. 192

90.        Can one be overeducated?. 194

91.        Are we honest?. 196

92.        Are you happy?. 198

93.        Were you born at the wrong time?. 200

94.        Are you hooked on digital?. 202

95.        Will you age alone?. 204

96.        Is divorce a good business?. 206

97.        Is there a future for handwriting?. 208

98.        Will paper disappear?. 210

99.        Is art a good investment?. 212

100.     Why not?. 214