Collaboration versus Competition

Posted October 16th, 2012 by russfrazierwp and filed in Business and Economy
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To collaborate or to compete?

This deals with the issue of collaboration versus competition. We are conditioned and trained as middle class Americans to compete with each other from a very early age. It continues on through college and becomes more or less intense depending on your career path.

Consider the modern American system of meritocracy. Not a completely overarching principle, but frequently encountered when a person embarks on a professional career requiring at least one college degree. The competitive effort can be seen as a string of high stakes tests taken in a relatively short period of time, after prolonged study. It starts in the sixth grade now, with tests and quizzes, continues in high school and the SAT, continues on through university course midterms and finals. If you go to graduate school, you have to take the GRE, GMAT, MCAT, etc. Then there is more of the same. If you are a masochist, and go into a PhD program, you can expect a thesis defense. In every case just mentioned, there is a high-stakes, time-limited hurdle to complete, like a game. Some resemble zero-sum games with one winner and many losers (e.g., the highest SAT scorers get to go to MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc., while most of the rest attend public schools) while others are not as strictly competitive.

A (low-stakes) zero-sum game

After you are done with all that, do you want to collaborate with people, or do you want to kick butt? You want to kick butt and take names. You want to make money because you were poor in graduate school. You want to dish out the shit because you’ve been eating it for so long.

Now, consider what has to be done to accomplish complex, resource-intensive and time-consuming tasks, for example, planning a city revitalization project, creating policy for leading a large country into the 21st century, designing a computer chip. It takes many people, of different specializations, abilities, skills, temperament, etc. all working together for a common goal. Are we as middle class Americans, honed by the process of obtaining credentials in a highly competitive environment suited to collaboration?

 

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