Competition LO18114

Rol Fessenden (
Sun, 17 May 1998 23:30:12 -0400

Replying to LO18093 --


I enjoyed your post on competition. I think from this post, that I have
not made myself clear on where I stand. I believe there is some value in
competition as you said. In particular if one can be open-minded at the
same time, it can become a big learning opportunity.

The original point I made is the more relevant one for me, and that is
that competition is unavoidable, and particularly so if you have strong
values that you want others to share. As a specific example, consider the
recent conversation here about leaders. The notion came up that someone
might challenge the organizational purpose. In fact, this happens all the
time, especially in organizations that tend to be a bit non-business-y in
their philosophy. the business guys want to come in and be the hard-nosed
cost-benefit types. Happens all the time.

If you don't agree with that view, and if you believe strongly in another
vision, then it is very difficult to avoid a competition of values. And I
find it helpful to really consider it a competition. So, for example, if
it is a competitiion, then it pays to know who the judges are, what they
value, how the decision will be made, and so forth. The learnings from
that analysis will stand you in good stead in the ensuing competition. Is
it win-lose? Yes. Not all possible choices can be cast in a win-win
mode. It is precisely in these situations where win-lose does not appear
to be avoidable, that the competitive metaphor serves well. By the way,
the competitive metaphor does not prevent one from listening to sound
arguments and changing one's mind. Is there great personal benefit? No,
not necessarily benefit. Satisfaction, perhaps or gratification, not
necessarily benefit except that it is good preparation for the next

Personally, I prefer the win-win model. I just see many instances where
differences between people do not allow for both parties to "win".

On a related note, I reviewed the table provided by Leslie Lax, and I
think it is a good way to look at the issues. The thing that appears
missing to me is the context or environment. For "Both/and" thinking to
occur, both parties have to give up the win-lose paradigm, not just one
party. Furthermore, the situation must lend itself to "both/and"
thinking. When Hewlett-Packard decided not to do government research any
more, they took an unusual position, and it was clearly a minority
position among companies that did govt. research. However, it is hard to
imagine how they could do the "both/and" trick, so they didn't. Sometimes
one position really is the best of the choices, and sometimes it is not at
all clear what "both/and" is or can mean in a particular situation.


Rol Fessenden

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