Over the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring life beyond competition. I’m not exploring life without competition (for now)… just beyond it.

Among the many reasons I am suspicious of competition is its pervasive presence in Western world view. Biologists see it among cells; astronomers see it in celestial interactions. Starts to feel a little like that cave Plato is famous for describing (yes, yes—among other things).

In my preliminary research, I was reminded of John C. Maxwell’s The 360° Leader. I found some interesting discussion about it at the Black Belt Productivity blog, where Jason Echols examines “Competing vs. Completing”. His mention of how competition is at odds with building trust struck a chord.

Trust is something that the best leaders in my life have built with their teams. Over time, I realized I was more proactive, and more creative, around leaders who expressed trust in me. My greatest team victories happened when there was a high level of openness and trust, not only from leadership, but also among team members. Until I saw that bit in Echols’ post, though, I never considered the connection—or is it the conflict—between trust and competition.

Addendum: I’ve done more writing on this subject here.


6 Responses to The Competition Myth (1)

  1. Penina says:

    When I started researching this, I had a pretty good idea what I was going to post next, and thought I just needed a few statistics to back me up. Now, having found Margaret Mead’s “Cooperation and Competion in Primitive Cultures”, corporate culture and productivity articles by Robert Crow of the Deming Institute, tons of material on schools and workplace by Alfie Kohn, not to mention the provocative comments here, I’ve got a rather unwieldy “Competition Myth (2)”, and quite a bit of editing to do!

  2. Sean Howard says:

    Liz (http://www.successful-blog.com/) was talking tonight about Doc Searl’s latest fascination with how the conversation age is actually changing commerce. That conversations are becoming the new vehicle for commerce, if you will.

    Not sure if I fully follow it yet, but I think it ties into this cooperation equation.

    And Kelly, your comments are EQUALLY brilliant. Loving this.

    More when I’m not inebriated. 😉

  3. Kelly Evans says:

    For me the practical application is that I am a little fish preparing to launch a web based business in to a big business pond…a world wide ocean. So the more my tools can take advantage of the cooperative elements of the web, making mutual benefit not only among users of my platform, but between my business and other businesses, the better chance I have to compete in an attention based market, where the attention is already attached to existing sites.

    Of course, it has always been true that cooperation within limited spheres makes groups, corporations or bodies more competitive. So the most profound shift would be if we could turn this format inside-out…so that, rather than a competitive world context, within which we have cooperative groups competing with each other, we can have a cooperative global context, where the competing groups within that context all clearly see how all competitions lead towards a better whole…therefore, you can win, but no one looses.

    We can talk more about the mechanics of how to implement this…or better yet, just do it. Since we are talking about a fundamental shift in consciousness, I think trying to convince people of this possibility philosophically is putting the cart before the horse. In any case, this shift is happening under our feet, aside from what we do personally. It is an epiphenomena of technology, especially, but not only, the web.

  4. Penina says:

    What awesome feedback to this post, Sean and Kelly!

    There is more and more to explore. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and your two comments make me realize I should have shared my thoughts sooner, because you’ve provided more insight.

    Kelly’s note about competition being a shadow of cooperation brings to mind another idea that’s been forming lately — that cooperation does not *compete* with competition. The whole idea of saying cooperation ‘vs.’ competition is a misnomer. At this point, it’s more abstract than I want it to be… There should be a concrete, practical reason for wandering down this thought avenue.

  5. Kelly Evans says:

    Yes, balanced biologists have noted that cooperation has played at least as big a role in evolution as competition. The human body itself is a cooperation corperation…humans have the potential of sabotaging themselves by excessively focusing on some element of reality, then projecting it as if it is the whole thing. Excessively focusing on cooperation could equally lead to delusions as exclusively focusing on competition. However, I’d say we could use a little excess in the cooperation direction…the pendulum is poised to swing.

    The Platonic cave template is a provocative invocation…the idea of competition not as a polar opposite to cooperation, but a shadow. What if we emerged from a delusion of discreet selves, and EXPERIENCED all life as a continuity, working through this long process of evolution, for a purpose, to produce something…maybe emerging from the cave would be something like that.

  6. Sean Howard says:

    Brilliant! Brilliant! Sound he BRILLIANT alarms!

    I love ideas like these that take such an accepted part of our life and raise it into the light, exposing it in all its insidious connections.

    I wonder about the relationship between fear and competition.

    Or the fact that competition immediately raises external approvals. Someone must judge. So we remove our own ability to evaluate a work.


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