Competition LO18196

Leslie Lax (
Mon, 25 May 1998 23:37:47 -0700

Replying to LO18187 --

Fred, replying to Roxanne, wrote:

>Lastly, a question for you: Do you realize/recognize that you are engaged
>in a competition with many other list members regarding the meaning and
>the value of competition?

I have been trying to gather my thoughts and experiences regarding
competition and collaboration/cooperation, and this last paragraph jogged
me to contribute.

It really does seem that in many instances, those contributing to the
conversation are saying the same thing, but using different words. The
outcome and effect of the "competing" statements will often be similar,
especially when talking about win/win competition. Now, when we use the
word collaboration (or cooperation) we are clearly talking about an
explicit attempt to learn from each other and to build a better
understanding/outcome/improvement for all. It strikes me that many of
those championing competition are also talking about collaborative
improvement, but couch that process in competitive terms. Ultimately, I
think that it is a matter of belief, worldview and values that describes
our language.

A runner, "competing" to better their own personal best could also be seen
to be collaborating with past and current experience, training and
strategy to improve their time for a given distance/course. Many runners
share their experiences so that others may learn from them. I have seen
this at internationally competitive races and ultra-marathons, such as the
Comrade's Marathon in South Africa. That runner may also be striving to
beat their competition. What is the TRUE benchmark here? I suggest that
depends on the individual.

An anecdote from my graduate student days. I did my undergraduate studies
at a university that encouraged collaborative learning through seminars,
project teams and a general milieu of sharing ideas. The university
department where I did my graduate work was closed, and competitive (as
are all economics departments ??) and each student was jealously guarding
their own work and learning, so as to finish top of the list. Students
just did not work together. I created a study group, and encouraged
students to work together and share ideas and understanding. It is, I
believe a measure of success, that the group who did share and learn
together improved over the year more than those that did not. (For those
who are competitive minded, we all finished up in the top of the class.
None of the students who did not participate in the study group came in
the top five.) Although anecdotal, and a sample of one, so to speak, I do
believe that this does demonstrate the benefit of cooperation, and that
those steeped in competition may also benefit from cooperation. In
striving to improve our own performance we may well become better at
something than someone else, but which has the longer lasting benefit:
victory, or improvement?

Fred, I believe that those engaged in this discussion would be better
served if they collaborate to better understand the meaning of
competition, rather than compete with each other over the meaning and
value of the term. I believe that as long as the process and outcome of
the relationship results in an improved situation for all participants,
then it matters not whether we call it collaboration or competition. That
certainly is how I view my learning.

Continuing the conversation,



"Leslie Lax" <>

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