top of page
How to win
in a winner-take-All world

The Definitive Guide to Adapting and Succeeding in High-Performance Careers

“Neil Irwin has written a wonderful, fascinating narrative of our fast-changing world, filled with erudite analysis and practical advice. His conclusion: The people who adapt are the ones who win―in business and life―and adaptation isn’t an inborn trait, but something we can all cultivate and learn. This is a map to the modern economy―and a lodestar for navigating your career.”

Charles Duhigg, bestselling author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better



How do you prepare for a stable career when the world of work is changing under your feet? Read this excellent book. Neil Irwin offers insights that are interesting, thought-provoking, and surprisingly useful for identifying the skills and experiences that will prepare you to succeed today and adapt tomorrow.”

Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife


“How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World demonstrates why Neil Irwin is one of America’s most highly regarded economic journalists. He offers shrewd practical advice ― why you should combine skills rather than focus on a single aptitude, how big data can improve your job performance, and why working hard but not too hard is the key to results. If you want to navigate the rocky terrain of modern work, this book is your map and Irwin is your guide.”

Daniel H. Pink, bestselling author of When, To Sell Is Human, and Drive

For years, New York Times Senior Economic Correspondent Neil Irwin has written about the rapidly changing business and economic environment. He has offered ground-breaking analysis of the growing dominance of wildly profitable superstar firms; rapid technological change that is upending major industries; and a changing understanding of work and employment that has redefined the meaning of a job.


He also had countless conversations, often over coffee or evening drinks, with colleagues, friends, and sources who were trying to chart a viable career path in a time of rapid change and uncertainty.


One day he realized that what was seeing in his day job as an economics writer and in his evenings discussing career strategy were in fact the same story—two sides of the same coin. It is the very economic changes Irwin was writing about for the Times that have made navigating a career in the modern corporate world so complex and challenging.


So Irwin set out to write a book that answers the question: How can an ambitious professional best make their way in the twenty-first century economy, to build a career that is durable, rewarding, and lucrative?


The result is How to Win in a Winner-Take-All World, published in 2019 by St. Martin’s Press.


Combining practical advice, memorable case studies, and high-level analysis of the changing economic backdrop for the world of work, How to Win is based on cutting-edge work from academics and consultancies, as well as Irwin’s on-the-ground reporting at some of the world’s best-run companies. He traveled around the globe, meeting top performers at some of the world's biggest and best-known organizations, like Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Walmart. He also studied smaller organizations that offer essential lessons, including the firms that make digital special effects in Planet of the Apes movies; Jim Beam bourbon; Shake Shack cheeseburgers; Volvo cars; and many more.


Readers of the book will learn:


  • How, in the large, complex, digitally-oriented businesses that dominate the modern economy, there is special value in being a “glue person” who understands how different parts of the organization fit together.

  • How to avoid being the kind of glue person who just gums up a company with bureaucracy by being a “Pareto optimal employee,” Irwin’s term for a person who has successfully optimized their abilities across multiple areas of technical expertise.

  • That to succeed we need to push ourselves to gain experience in areas that are not natural strengths, rather than simply to keep getting better at areas in which we are already strong. Adaptability, the book shows, is not just a natural-born trait but something we can all cultivate in ourselves that is essential for thriving in the twenty-first century economy.

  • How savvy use of big data can help office workers become better at their jobs, much as an all-star baseball player uses increasingly rich data about his sport to more effectively hit the ball.

  • How to determine whether a company you’re working at is a winner, an aspirant, or an afterthought in the modern economy, and understand which type of organization you should be seeking jobs at given your priorities and mindset.

  • How to think about a job in an era in which companies no longer put a high priority on loyalty, and a career is more like a series of hook-ups than multi-decade marriage with one organization.

  • What to consider in weighing a career as an independent contractor or freelance worker, and the trade-offs with seeking a more traditional employment relationship.

  • How to ensure a successful career aligns well with your broader life goals.


As Irwin writes in the introduction, a sailor may not be able to control the winds and currents, but needs to understand them to get to the destination. Similarly, those of us navigating a twenty-first century career may not be able to control the economic forces that shape our destiny. But How to Win is the essential guide to understanding them.


Read an excerpt in The New York Times here. Or order now from:

bottom of page