Competition LO17398

Joseph Voros (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 12:15:54 +1000

Replying to LO17071 --

John Crutcher wrote:
> On Monday, Feb 2, Benjamin Compton wrote:
> > . . .the key to cooperation amidst competition is to have
> > clearly defined values. I would not be surprised, however,
> > if competition doesn't crowd out cooperation a little bit,
> > but between the two I think there is more virtue in
> > competition.
> Your post, unwittingly I'm sure, exposes a large part of what this thread
> is all about. The word "virtue," according to my dictionary, comes "from
> Latin virtut-, virtus strength, manliness, virtue, from vir man -- more at
> VIRILE." Manliness. This thread is largely about the differences between
> the genders. Cooperation is more of a feminine trait (I hope I won't get
> too much disagreement on this), and competition is a masculine trait. The
> war of the sexes is still alive and well (a manly metaphor, war, exposing
> myself as masculine).

Warning: broad brush-stroke statements appear below. Enter at own risk

Competition seems prefaced upon the mental model of "scarcity" -- that
there is not enough to go around, and that the activity is a zero sum
game, so you can only win if I lose. Hence, I must "beat" you to get what
I want.

Cooperation seems prefaced upon the mental model of "abundance" -- that
there is lots to go around, that by working together we can both win and
that the more you win the more I win, too. Hence, let's work together
and maximise our gain.

The sexual classification (male=competetive, female=cooperative) appears
to me to result from what Toffler calls the Second Wave
(Industrialisation). Here, the sexual roles became separated as males and
females went separate ways to undertake separate types of work -- women
stayed home to rear children in nuclear families, men went to work in
"factory-type organisations." At work, better performance equated to
better rewards, so competition was selected for. At home, cooperation
would create a support system and relieve the burden of doing it yourself,
and so cooperation was selected for.

Contrast to First Wave (Agriculturalisation) where (extended) families
stayed together and worked together, rearing children together.
Cooperation was necessary among both sexes to ensure survival. This is
also true of pre-First wave societies (hunter-gatherers) where if the
men did not cooperate, the prey was not caught in the hunt, and if women
did not cooperate, less would be gathered. Each way, all would suffer.

> I like the reference to the word, coopetition in a previous point, which
> leads to one point I want to play with a bit. BOTH cooperation AND
> competition have value, and exist SIMULTANEOUSLY, like the male and the
> female, as we go about living. I think the issue is becoming more
> prevalent today as women become more important and prevalent in the
> workplace.

As with most things, the problem is with trying to apply a single
model/approach to all situations. Everything comes down to context.
Context determines when one or the other is appropriate, and to what
degree. "Co-opetition" is a name given to a synthesis between the two
polar opposites which had been believed to be the only two (mutually
exclusive) options. It would be even more beneficial to explicitly name
the *continuum* between these poles, and to speak, perhaps, of "degrees
of co-opetition" whether high or low in one or other pole.

The important point is the realisation of the existence of a continuum.
This notion of continua between opposites is not something which seems
to have found its way into much of Western corporate thinking yet. This
is not surprising, since the Western style of thinking is polar and
"either/or" not "together/and."

> The question this brings to mind, for me, is "what benefits does
> cooperation bring to the job, and what benefits does competition bring;
> and how can we use them both effectively and simultaneously?" It sure
> sounds like a brain twister to me.

This will depend on the context in which these are to be employed.
Perhaps the characterisations at the start of this message provide some
guide to which behaviour is suited to which context.



Dr Joseph Voros                             Melbourne, Australia

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