Competition LO18069

Dan Burnstein (
Sat, 09 May 1998 21:34:58 -0400

Replying to LO18031 --

Richard Goodale says:

>A week from today, my eldest daughter (age 5) participates in her first
>Primary (Elementary) school Sports Day. I have been told that the event
>will be "totally non-competitive," i.e. no "winners" and no "losers," and
>this format will be for the whole school (i.e. up to age 12).
>Interestingly, the teacher added the proviso ("Except for, perhaps, the
>nursery children" (e.g. the 4-5 year olds--my daughter). "They haven't
>learned yet how not to compete," she added, with not a little bit of
>contempt for the evil thoughts which we parents might have visited on
>these poor little souls.

I have been working for about 4 years on this problem. How can we be
competitives and yet also be cooperative? One book examining this
seeming dichotomy is entitled "Coopetition."

Robert Burdick, who teaches at Boston University, Tufts, and Northeastern,
and I have attempted to capture both of these seeming opposites in a
series of over 20 multi-issue, multi-party role-play games. We discovered
using them with a wide variety of users that every has different
strengths. Often the loud, assertive types are O.K. at bargaining, but
weak on thinking about alliances, group process, and finding others needs
to put together multiple option offers. Likewise, a quieter, more
introspective person might be good at thinking out strategic issues, but
weak at putting forth a clear concise position. We decided to come up with
a mechanism that would "unbraid" the common aspects of almost all
negotiations and team problem-solving encounters, namely:

1. strategic introductions
2. setting a group agenda and process
3. sharing and searching
4. finding common ground
5. brainstorming to make the pie larger
6. bargaining (offering everyone something that will satisfy their
interests acceptably and yours well)
7. finalize the discussions and put agreement into writing

Now, the above are easy to describe, but hard to do and any steps missed
will come back to haunt you when the going gets difficult.

We decided to score our games because we agree with you, Richard, that
competition can be both fun and a way to know how well you are doing. But,
interestingly, after we add up each person's score and total them to find
the group (usually 4-8 parties) score the actual score is not very
important. What is important is learning what you did well and poorly and
what you would do differently next time.

We started out trying to find a training paradigm and ended up with
something that helps everyone in the real world be more efficient at
coming up with efficient agreements. We will send out samples to anyone
who desires to see our scoring and negotiation model.

Dan Burnstein
(Faculty, COPACE, Clark University)
Negotiator Pro Co.
Brookline, MA


Dan Burnstein <>

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