Employee Ranking Systems LO17355

Richard Goodale (fc45@dial.pipex.com)
Mon, 09 Mar 98 10:42:09 GMT

Replying to LO17351 --

Hi Geof

Your reply challenges me to stretch my thinking on the DNA parable. At
the possible risk of hearing from those who know much more of this issue
than I do, let me jump in the deep end a bit more.

> I need some clarification. Is Watson/Crick a team, and Wilkins/Franklin a
> team ? And is it the competition between these two teams you are
> referring to that spurred them on and lead to the discovery of DNA ?
> If the answers to the question are yes, then I believe you and Roxanne are
> talking of two different contexts of cooperation and competition. I think
> Roxanne's belief is Watson/Crick could not cooperate on the project and at
> the same time compete between themselves. If two or more people need each
> other in order to complete a task successfully, then a work enviroment
> that causes them to compete against each other is counter productive.

As I understand "it" (a very rich and complex "competition" in the early
50's to "discover" the structure of DNA between "Crick/Watson",
"Wilkins/Franklin", Linus Pauling, etc. ad infinitum), the "facts" are as

James Watson and Francis Crick were two very different individuals (one
English, one American; one a focused scientist, one an intellectual
dilletante) who happened to meet at Cambridge in the early 50's, and
found, serendipitously, that both had an interest in one of the holy
grails of science of that time, the strucure of DNA). Both were deductive
reasoners--i.e. "screw the data, what model really looks good?"

Simultaneously, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin were attacking the
same problem at Imperial College, London in the inductive manner--i.e.
"screw models, what data might be interesting, and how can we develop

Of course, in reality, W/R were not unfamiliar with or oblivious to
"models"--their work on crystallography was based on mental models of what
the structure of DNA might be. Similarly, W/C were not oblivious to or
unfamiliar with the values of experimentation and "real" data to "prove"
their models. Both "teams" consisted of highly educated and brilliant

And yet, with my very limited knowledge of what actually occurred within
and between the two teams, I am led to the conculsion that within each
"team" there was significant "competition," even if as starkly defined by
Noah Webster eons ago ("A contest between rivals"--courtesy of Roxanne's
post, LO17350).

While W/C worked together to "solve" the DNA "problem" in their own way,
this process of "working together" entailed (I would postulate, of
necessity) significant "competition." They were a "team," but a very ad
hoc one. While they were striving towards a common goal, they were each
very bright and very differently trained individuals (one a biologist, one
a physicist). I do not believe that they could have done what they did
without "competing" almost daily with each other--for the primacy of
ideas/approaches to take, for "face time" with other eminent scientists,
for kudos, etc.

The same for W/F. Although my understanding is that their "team" was even
much more ad hoc than W/C, they were no less competetive (particularly on
an interteam basis).

To me one of the most important morals of this story (there are many that
come to me as I write this, and I am very conscious that I need to do more
thinking and reading on the subject) is that the discovery of the
structure of DNA was the result of cooperation/collaboration, reluctant as
it may have been, between two distinct and highly competetive teams. What
would have happened if these two teams had chosen/been able to collaborate
earlier and voluntarily? I would argue that the problem would have taken
longer to solve because the dialectic power of thesis/antithesis would
have been militated against by the increased need for cooperation.
Essentially, my postulation is that there is some "proper" balance between
the co-existing human needs to cooperate and compete which needs to be
struck for significant "progress" or "creativity" to be made, and in the
"DNA" case, this balance was achieved.

I'll not rabbit on much more on this, at least now, for one of the
products of my wife's and my DNA is sick, the other one is competing for
my face time, and I need to work cooperatively with all the parties to
make sure that our team achieves the goal of today, which is to make it to
the next one safely and happily.


Richard Goodale


Richard Goodale <fc45@dial.pipex.com>

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