Red or Blue? The choice between competition and cooperation.

The article ”Competition and Cooperation: The Wisdom to know When”, written by Roberta Wiig Berg, explores the concepts of competition and cooperation by introducing the Red-Blue Exercise. In this exercise participants are divided into two teams and their goal is to achieve the maximum positive amount of points. The teams chose a color every round- either red or blue. If both teams chose Red, both teams get 3 points. If one team choses blue, that team gets 6 points, and the team that chose Red gets -6 points. If both teams chose Blue, both teams get -3 points. After the end of the last round the points are summed up and presented to all participants. After introducing this exercise to readers, Berg goes into analyzing the pattern of the choices the teams make. She also sees that there are four factors affecting well-informed choices: reflection, fair-play, trust, and ethics. In my opinion, the point made by Berg, in that we are more likely to compete as individuals than cooperate is true. It is just in our nature to compete, when we are in a stressful situation. However, I think that the Red-Blue exercise is just a simple representation of the actions of humans and that there has to be more research done to be certain that competition is deteriorating the business world.

At the beginning I wanted to notice that even though Berg in her article says that in some cases competition is beneficial, it is implied that she is not a big fan of competitive behaviour. As she analyses each part of the exercise, it can be seen that she is in favour of cooperation, for example saying: “By engaging in competition instead of cooperation, both teams lost”. This attitude is similar to the one’s exhibited by Hutcheon and Bateson, who feel like competitive behaviour is making the society much worse, and that we need to put more emphasis on cooperation.

During her analysis, Berg notices that in the first round, there is usually one team that tries to cooperate. But this cooperation is often met with the betrayal by the other team. This shows that one of the teams is usually competitive from the start of the game. They know that when they choose red, there is a possibility that they will get -6 points, while when they choose blue they are ensured that they will get at least -3 points and that the other team won’t be ahead of them. This example illustrates very well the competitive nature of humans. When they are in a stressful situation or are in danger, they become very competitive. This behaviour can also be seen in other situations, such as the game of “Monopoly”. When the game begins, all the people involved are happy, and relaxed. However, when the game hits crunch time (a stressful situation) everyone all of a sudden becomes competitive, and the atmosphere becomes very tense, even for a children’s game. This only shows how the true competitive nature comes out only in difficult times.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that, the Red-Blue Exercise is only a simple representation of the competitive behaviour of people, and that more sophisticated methods should be used to measure how such behaviour affects the business environment. As Jc Saenz points out, the exercise lacked incentives and, because of that the participants did not take this exercise seriously. Like in every business situation there has to be a motivator. In big businesses it is money, while in an exercise it has to be something more than just aiming to get the highest possible score. It has to be something that will get the participants excited and ready to begin. This is very important, and I think JC Saenz is really spot on with it.

Taking this all into account, it can clearly be seen that, while the points made by Berg using the Red-Blue exercise are valid, this game does not consider a very important factor- motivation. If the players do not feel motivated, then the game makes no sense, because no one will care what choice they make. They will just choose random colors- once blue and another time red. For this exercise to be considered legitimately accurate there needs to be a motivator in it. This would allow us to somewhat judge whether competition actually worsens the society, but still there would need to be more research done to make a full judgment.

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