Competition is Overrated
There’s a hypothesis woven into the fabric of every aspect of American culture. It goes like this: Let two or more people, products, or ideas compete and this will result in what’s best for the group. This hypothesis is an engine of innovation in business, in sports, in law, in health care, in schools, in families, everywhere.
Yet the hypothesis is not always right. We kid ourselves into thinking that when two competing interests “duke it out” it somehow betters the gene pool or otherwise makes us all better as a human race. In reality, the rule goes like this: Let two or more people, products, or ideas compete and this will result in what’s best for the winner. I don’t believe in trickle-down economics and I don’t believe in trickle-down benefits from winners to losers. The hypothesis is often a myth in my opinion.
Competition is not de facto bad, of course. A competitive mindset can serve society extremely well especially when there’s an abundance of resources. Competition has spurred magnificent human creations and inventions over the ages. Competition is a great way to generate ever higher achievements, no doubt. Yet the pendulum has swung too far. Competition has been too successful in generating know-how and technology to the point where now there is a frightening scarcity of resources.
The root of the problem is this outdated paradigm. Our country’s political parties are competing with each other at the expense of the nation. World nations are competing with each other at the expense of the earth. It’s not new. Civilizations have competed with each other since the dawn of history: conquering, oppressing, and building wealth at the expense of others.
Why not a different paradigm? A pendulum swing in the other way for a change? Toward collaboration. Let’s work together rather than against each other. Imagine a groundswell of popularity for collaboration. Imagine companies rewarding teams rather than individuals. Imagine collaborative sports and recreational activities rising in popularity on a par with competitive sports. Imagine school children being taught and modeled collaboration and communications skills, and rewarded for team/group success rather than individual success. Imagine game shows and talent shows rewarding teams instead of individual winners and losers. Imagine people who feel marginalized by competitive environments feeling valued as collaborators. So many people in America have shut down and withdrawn from civic affairs because it’s viewed as too competitive, even hostile. I have seen people withdraw from all sorts of groups and activities for fear of too much hostility. Why do we have to be so mean and so competitive with each other?
The above is an excerpt from my book: Together We Decide