Necessity of Competing in practical Life..

Roberta Wiig Berg, in her paper titled “Competition and Cooperation, The Wisdom to know When”(2010), has used the Red-Blue Exercise, a variation of Prisoner’s dilemma , based on the mathematical theories of Josh Nash (Siegfried, 2006) to explain the necessity of cooperation in business as it is necessary in other aspects of lives. Red-Blue Exercise promotes this reflection on decision-making methods. It is a powerful learning experience and forces participants to reflect on their decision-making processes, including the roles played by FAIR PLAY, TRUST, AND ETHICAL BEHAVIOR for making well informed choices between competition and cooperation.


From what I understood from her paper is, Roberta is trying to explain that individuals base their decisions on what is best for themselves alone, not taking their fellow competitors into consideration, the results are unfortunate for both. If, however, there is cooperation between the two, they can achieve mutually satisfactory results.

I find this experiment exceptionally simplistic and unrepresentative to a certain degree. We find that the concepts of competition and cooperation are placed in association to one another right at the onset, inferring a trade-off between the two, leaving no room for overlap. I am not fully convinced with this experiment as the basis of this experiment which divides the participants into two groups (binary in nature) is not the same situation in the real market or in any aspects for that matter. Real markets are very competitive due to multiple sellers/ companies exists in the market and cooperation or competition between the two does not affect the market demand. Even if we assume that there exist only two competitors in the market, their cooperation would result in prejudice to the consumers as it will violate the law of free and fair market.

Furthermore, I respectfully do not agree with the author’s concluding argument that competition is a reflex action. While this statement may not seem entirely baseless when considering the data provided by the writer, to say that this is true for all rational, self-interested individuals is to disrespect the intricacy and unpredictability of human behavior. This argument, therefore, suffers from several pragmatic shortcomings.

Moreover, the paper has many contradictory arguments. As mentioned by Shawnpak the author claims that the exercise is not a contest, but later states that the aim for each group should be to end up with highest possible score. This makes the objective of the paper somewhat unclear and makes me question the author that:

  • Are you trying to criticize the competition?
  • Is the objective of the paper to prove that competition is an ubiquitous phenomenon?

If the above statements are true, it makes it impossible for either team to attain the highest possible score, since, “the highest” is defined relative to the score of the other team.

At last, I would say I partially disagree to the view of the article because clearly the world is an open market and key to survival is competition.
It is obvious that co-operation can be maintained in a team but not with competitors. Therefore, comparing a ‘Red Blue Experiment’ to real life aspects is not appropriate and does not give fulfilling results



1 Comment

  1. Hi! I like your insight that the red/blue exercise is binary but markets aren’t, for some reason I haven’t considered that while reading the article! That’s pretty valid. However, I do feel that competition is the reflex in most situations, Bateson too argued that we are too individualistic in this society. Nature vs nurture maybe? would you say that Red/Blue has no value for all aspects of life or only business?


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