Back in Competition

A recent article on Slate.com revisited the theme of competition, something I’ve been writing about (here and here) in response to their articles. Ray Fisman discusses studies on whether man or women are more competitive and whether any difference is explained by nature or nurture.

More importantly perhaps, he questions the significance of competition in our world and whether it is a good thing at all. I believe, like many other things, a balance has got to be struck somehow. Once we reach a certain threshold whereby competition achieves positive gains, its cost will start outweighing benefits.

Look whos trailing....
Look who's trailing....

But perhaps the problem isn’t one of female passivity—many have claimed that if women ran the world, there wouldn’t be any wars, and anyone who has read testosterone-driven Wall Street accounts like Liar’s Poker, or more recently House of Cards, might question whether all-out competition is the best way of managing our economy. If competition is nurture rather than nature, perhaps we’d all be better off if we lost a little of our warrior instincts.

I know it sounds rather like an economic analysis but this applies for practically everything. We are entering an age of sophistication where competition basically consist of sub-units of collaboration, which is in turn divided into sub-units of competition. Just think about it, when we work at a company, we may be competing with our colleagues for attention from boss but the whole department, together with the boss is collaborating to compete against other departments and other bosses to a higher level and the company on the whole is collaborating to compete against a rival company and the industry as a whole (perhaps beverages) is competing against another (say food, they’re all competing for consumers’ stomach space). Competition and collaboration are not ends of a spectrum but co-evolutionary forces that shapes the world and our sophisticated activities.

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