Competition LO18093

Roxanne Abbas (
Wed, 13 May 1998 11:36:08 -0500

Dear Loers,

This discussion on cooperation and competition has been a great learning
experience for me. I have expressed my reservations about the value of
competition, yet am trying to understand where it could be useful to the
individual, the organization or society as a whole.

Rol said: In the act of cooperating, one learns of other
opinions/capabilities/mental models/beliefs as to "facts"/etc., and
benefits greatly from this exposure. In the act of competing, one is able
to test one's own opinions/capabilities/mental models/beliefs as to
"facts"/etc. against one's own-again to great personal benefit. Any whole
person needs a balance of these two activities to learn and grow.

It helps me to translate abstract ideas into specific examples. People
test their capabilities by competing in sports competitions, formal debate
competitions, speech contests such as those sponsored by Toastmaster's and
competitions for first chair in the orchestra. This process tells that a
particular set of judges using the established criteria have determined
that I am a winner or a loser. Rol and many others believe that there is
great personal benefit in this process. It may be that this process works
great for some people and not for others. I was a member of an
outstanding Toastmaster's group for many years and found that I learned
and developed as a speaker from receiving direct feedback from the group
but learned nothing by winning or losing the weekly competition for best
speaker. It seems that some people need a structured competition in order
to motivate them to do their best. I have not found this to be true for
me. I can't speak for others, but I don't feel that I need a balance of
cooperation and competition in order to be " whole" or to "learn and

Rol also said:

"I admire and respect your desire to avoid competitive environments. At
the micro level-ie for one individual-perhaps it is possible to create an
environment with out competition. So in that sense, I may be wrong when I
suggest it may not be avoidable. I was really looking at it more from a
macro level. Perhaps we are not as evolved as we need to be, perhaps
there are other reasons, perhaps you are right that collaboration is
somehow better than competition. But practically speaking, I suspect that
the world cannot avoid competition, at least today. One reason appears to
be that some people think it is not only ok, but a positive good. So
rather than avoid it, they welcome it."

It may be possible for an individual to avoid competition, but it's
certainly not easy. My golf league has weekly competitions among teams
and individuals. Three of the other women on my team are highly
competitive, probably in all aspects of their lives, and are disappointed
when our team or they personally don't win. I would enjoy the game much
more without the pressure that competition puts on them. I am an
independent compensation consultant who is frequently invited to submit a
competitive bid on a project. I always decline, explaining my belief that
the competitive bidding is an ineffective process for both the
organization and the consultant. So I have chosen to lose the business of
those organizations that believe in the value of competition; they will be
better served by a consultant whose values are aligned with theirs.

My learnings at this point of the discussion:

1. My values related to this issue are very different from many, perhaps
most people in this group, perhaps in the world.
2. There are many people who believe strongly that a win/lose model of
competition is not only natural, but preferable to the win/win model of
cooperation in many or most situations.
3. Competition is a preferable model in situations of great and imminent
danger. England chose the extremely competitive Winston Churchill when
they finally realized the imminent danger that they and the world were

Best regards,


Roxanne Abbas

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