I have always seen competition and cooperation as two mutually dependent and co-existing factors rather than polar opposites. Roberta Berg’s paper connected with my view on competition and cooperation working hand-in-hand by discussing the framework of the Red-Blue Exercise, leading Berg to conclude that we do make decisions based on self-interest because it is our tendency to compete with others, yet at the same time we need to recognize the value of cooperation. At its core, I see the trust to the phenomenon that balances cooperation and competition.
It seemed that Berg was using the Red-Blue Exercise to affirms the point that competition results in a greater defeat than victory, which then implicitly alludes to the zero-sum game that Bateson and Hutcheon were vehemently opposed to. Bateson had urged her audience to “practice having trust in people” and Berg had stated that one of the most anticipated outcomes of the Red-Blue Exercise is for its participants to develop trust between each other in order to transition to cooperation for the greater benefit of both teams. But seeing that Team A and B learned to trust each other after both failing miserably in rounds one to four, I have concerns with the methods in which trust is practiced. In this sense, trust was learned through punishment, and unfortunately, punishment is one of the most profound ways we learn any circumstance because we remember our mistakes. I would have applauded Berg for applying this practice in another discipline instead of business. Valuable lesson learned in business should not rely on punishments due to the degree of consequences as a result. Yet I think Berg would have responded by referencing the natural ambitious tendencies that encompass the self-interest, eventually evolving to the “downward spiral” where there is no room for collaboration.
Cooperation is as fragile as trust, where one incentive to break the effort undermines the possibilities of it in the future. It was used as an example when Team B decided to choose blue instead of red, which destroyed the collaborative tendency of Team A. I admired Berg for illustrating the fragility of trust in this scenario, but considering competition in business, consistently working to ensure defeat for the opposing party would result in significant loss for both sides, and this model oversimplifies the prevailing consequences of such decisions. Does the Red-Blue Exercise delineate the most vicious human qualities or instilled the greatest sense of cooperation? The oversimplification of complex phenomena only provides a blunt, temporary understanding of what it is concerned. A more persisting skill to practice than cooperation is trust, and it is a highly sensitive goal to attain as it demands honesty and genuine consideration of the outcome.
Competition is second nature and is safe to say that it is absolutely essential in business, because it brings the most innovative ideas to the stage, and motivates others to strive for a better outcome. Berg had articulated a detailed explanation of the Red-Blue Exercise on competition in business, but I am skeptical with her affirming the point that cooperation is secondary to a vicious competition, and connecting with the criticism of @dignifiedrantswithvaish , I find contradiction in the idea of instilling the idea of cooperation through punishment, which destabilizes the possibility of trust, the core to the desired outcome of seeing both competition and corroborating as a cohesive operation.