Competition and Cooperation: The wisdom to know when.

I find this article beguiling in that, unlike Bateson and Hutcheon, Roberta W.B uses a different model in explaining why humans need to act more cooperative than compete. Red-Blue exercise does explains how individual make decisions when they find themselves in a competitive environment. This model is assumed a business one but I also believe that it is applicable in most competitive life situations. Both teams in Red-Blue exercise received final scores with negative values meaning they all loss the game. The aim of the exercise was to achieve the highest possible positive value, however none of the teams was able to achieve that because both team acted competitive instead of cooperating.

The author mentioned reflection, fair play, trust and ethic as important concepts that enable positive results in negotiation processes. It is evident that when choices are made without thinking of the effects that come with our decisions we also tend to make the wrong ones. The two teams were given an option of choosing delegates to represent them and negotiate on their behalf, however, the outcome of those meetings were rather detrimental. Both delegates would come back to their respective teams believing to have made an agreement with the member of other team, but when one team make a cunning selection to gain more points, the other team will feel unfairly treated and they respond in such a way that they try to stop the other team from having power over them. This lead to lack of trust; we do not compete unless we feel threatened and this threat comes as a result of mistrust. This concept does not only apply to business setting but in all life departments. Bateson give an example using Charles Darwin theory of natural selection which I find relative to this situation where by organisms with well adapted features tend to survive the scarcity of resources; in our reading, the team that outsmart the other one gain more points but with limited resources available, their competition become counter-productive.

In conclusion, I believe we are all born competitive but the decisions we make when we find ourselves in a threatening environment determine the end results. Competition can yield positive results if both parties chooses to compete but in a cooperative manner with a goal that each party get what they deserve. The take home message from this article is that we do not chose to compete, situations does, and it is the decisions we make that determine our chances of getting a positive or a negative end results.

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Roberta WB:


  1. I really loved this post of yours! You mentioned that “we do not compete unless we feel threatened and this threat comes as a result of mistrust.” This reminds me of Garcia et al’s article on how people become competitive and try to improve themselves to “minimize” or prevent the gap between their competition. Now that I really think about it, a lot of the reasons we are competitive is because we feel threatened, whether if it’s because of the scarcity of job opportunities or just morale.


  2. Hi!
    As melaniechen9985 says, I also agree with you when you talk about how trust plays a huge part in dictating the way we respond to competition. I think that many of our issues stem from our lack of trust not only in ourselves, but in the workings of the world around us. Mistrust leads to insecurities, which then brings about a need to “secure” ourselves once again and prove to others/ourselves that we are capable of one thing or another. However, I am a little bit confused as to what you mean in this post as you say that you believe that we are all born competitive, and even mention something Bateson says, yet in her speech she talks about how we are actually born cooperative, that it is in our cellular makeup. I could be wrong and simply distracted, but maybe you could clarify?


  3. Hi
    @suchivrb, your question is a good one because I can also imagine how the statement ‘humans are born competitive’ sounds. It is a very bold argument that needs backing and I believe it may take a paragraph or two to support it, however, these simple explanations may serve as an answer. Firstly, this actually sounds funny but according to biological explanation of conception, out of about five hundred millions male sex gametes, only one with a tail and energy that can propel it faster than the rest will fertilize the female egg. This explanation could be a basis of competition. Secondly, In a book; Born to Rebel by Frank J. Sulloway (not in our class readings), in Preoperational cognitive stage of childhood development, , children compete in almost every ecosystems they are exposed to. Schools and homes being best examples. In the case of a family, siblings compete for parental attention. A good example is of twins where one twin is not happy seeing the other sit on their parent’s lap.


  4. Hi @paulkur!
    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to my comment and clarifying my concern. I think maybe if you added some of the info you just mentioned to back up the statement, your point would have come across more clearly? Or maybe the overall thought would come together more fluidly? Because what you say makes complete sense, and I would have to agree; it seems as though the inevitable reality is that we are born both cooperative and competitive, no matter how much we argue for either side. Nonetheless, great and fruitful post. I really enjoyed reading it!


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