Competition LO18066

Ben Compton (
Mon, 11 May 1998 10:58:09 -0500

Replying to LO18031 --

Roxanne, et. al. - -

This thread has been very stimulating, at least to the degree that it has
caused me to engage in serious introspection. For that I am grateful,
despite whatever differences in opinion there may exist between those of
us who participate (and those of us who read, but do not respond).

I have been forced to ask myself some pretty basic questions, perhaps
questions I asked myself so long ago that I can't remember, but which have
influenced my thinking. They are:

1- Why does competition exist?
2- Why does cooperation exist?

My take on it is that competition is a product of volition; where there is
more than one choice possible for an entity some sort of competition will
occur. That competition may be internal to the entity, as it struggles to
figure out which option to choose; it may be external, as two entities are
competiting for a specific result or resource that is critical to their

The internal tension created by the need to constantly make choices can
become pretty intense. Questions such as: Which choice is the "right"
choice? What if both choices appear to be the "right" choice? What if I
make the right choice, but the timing is off, and the option is no longer

These questions help define, to a certain extent, the nature of
competition. And the answer to the questions define what an "entity" is at
any given moment, and influences what it will "become" in the future.

Just shooting from the hip, I'd define the primary forms of competition as
internal and external. Internal competition would occur when there are
choices to be made by an entity, but there is no external competition
forcing the choice. In this situation the entity is competing with itself,
for its own survival. It could also be seen as a competition between
values (i.e. what the entity is trying to achieve). In my own life (and I
have observed this in others) I have placed equal values on things that
were in direct conflict. The struggle to resolve the conflict, and to give
precedence to one of the values has been immense. This type of struggle,
nonetheless, promotes personal growth, brings clarity to my life, and
helps me make decisions faster and better in the future. In other words,
it increases my wisdom.

External competition occurs when entities compete for a result or a
resource. This morning on the news they were showing a picture of Marilyn
Monroe painted by Any Warhol that is going to be auctioned at Sutherby's.
I'm sure there are a lot of people who would love to have that painting
(although I personally thought it was ugly!) and so the auction is going
to create a competition. People will compete, based on price, for the

External competition is also common in sports, where one team would like
to win based on an objective, measurable criteria (i.e. the team with the
most points, or in some cases, the fewest points, wins). Such competition
causes growth just as much as internal competition, because they only way
to constantly win is to constantly increase and refine your abilities. The
product of external competition can lead to some pretty virtuous behavior
(not to mention tremendous growth on the part of the individuals who are
engaged in the competition). For instance, a sports team may improve their
performance by learning to better cooperate, to move faster, to design and
implement a better strategy, to learn to identify and exploit the
weaknesses in the competition, and so forth.

Again I'm just thinking out loud, but it seems to me that business
includes both internal and external competition. Internal competition
would help individuals improve their personal performance, perhaps even
team performance, as well as lead to higher levels of cooperation (i.e.
two different teams learning to better cooperate to improve their overall
performance). And some companies may find that cooperation is better for
them than competition, especially if there are a number of smaller
businesses trying to compete with a larger, better established business.
At some point the cooperation may dissolve and a new form of competition
may appear.

The bottom line is businesses compete with each other because they want
consumers to choose them over the competition.

Which brings me to my point: As long as choices exist there will be
competition. And if choices did not exist, then growth would not be
possible. In fact, if I understand correctly, if choices (or put another
way, alternate possibilities) did not exist life would not have evolved.
I'd like to think that intelligent life is the product of both competition
and cooperation.

I don't want to live in a world where there are no choices. In fact I
don't think such a world is even possible. But I also don't want to live a
world where there is no cooperation. In fact I don't think such a world is
even possible. The two feed off each other, in subtle ways, and allow for
new possibilities, growth, and evolution.

That's my take on this. . .my thinking is incomplete, there are big huge
holes in it, but it covers many of the assumptions underlying my thinking.


Ben Compton <>

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